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Title: A Manual of Moral Philosophy
Author: Peabody, Andrew P. (Andrew Preston), 1811-1893
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Manual of Moral Philosophy" ***

                       A Manual of Moral Philosophy

                               Designed For

                        Colleges and High Schools.


                      Andrew P. Peabody, D.D., LL.D.

       Plummer Professor of Christian Morals in Harvard University.

                          New York and Chicago:

                         A. S. Barnes And Company



Chapter 1. Action.
Chapter II. The Springs Of Action.
   Section I. The Appetites.
   Section II. The Desires.
   Section III. The Affections.
Chapter III. The Governing Principles Of Action.
Chapter IV. The Right.
Chapter V. Means And Sources Of Knowledge As To Right And Wrong.
   Section I. Conscience.
   Section II. Sources Of Knowledge. 1. Observation, Experience, And
   Section III. Sources Of Knowledge. 2. Law.
   Section IV. Sources Of Knowledge. 3. Christianity.
Chapter VI. Rights And Obligations.
Chapter VII. Motive, Passion, And Habit.
Chapter VIII. Virtues, And The Virtues.
Chapter IX. Prudence; Or Duties To One’s Self.
   Section I. Self-Preservation.
   Section II. The Attainment Of Knowledge.
   Section III. Self-Control.
   Section IV. Moral Self-Culture.
Chapter X. Justice; Or, Duties To One’s Fellow-Beings.
   Section I. Duties To God.
   Section II. Duties Of The Family.
   Section III. Veracity.
   Section IV. Honesty.
   Section V. Beneficence.
Chapter XI. Fortitude; Or Duties With Reference To Unavoidable Evils And
   Section I. Patience.
   Section II. Submission.
   Section III. Courage.
Chapter XII. Order; Or Duties As To Objects Under One’s Own Control.
   Section I. Time.
   Section II. Place.
   Section III. Measure.
   Section IV. Manners.
   Section V. Government.
Chapter XIII. Casuistry.
Chapter XIV. Ancient History Of Moral Philosophy.
Chapter XV. Modern History Of Moral Philosophy.


This book has been prepared, particularly, for the use of the Freshman
Class in Harvard College. The author has, at the same time, desired to
meet the need, felt in our high schools, of a manual of Moral Science
fitted for the more advanced classes.

In the preparation of this treatise, the author has been at no pains to
avoid saying what others had said before. Yet the book is original, so far
as such a book can be or ought to be original. The author has directly
copied nothing except Dugald Stewart’s classification of the Desires. But
as his reading for several years has been principally in the department of
ethics, it is highly probable that much of what he supposes to be his own
thought may have been derived from other minds. Of course, there is no
small part of the contents of a work of this kind, which is the common
property of writers, and must in some form reappear in every elementary

Should this work be favorably received, the author hopes to prepare, for
higher college-classes, a textbook, embracing a more detailed and thorough
discussion of the questions at issue among the different schools—past and
present—of ethical science.

                                Chapter 1.


An act or action is a voluntary exercise of any power of body or mind. The
character of an action, whether good or bad, depends on the intention of
the agent. Thus, if I mean to do my neighbor a kindness by any particular
act, the action is kind, and therefore good, on my part, even though he
derive no benefit from it, or be injured by it. If I mean to do my
neighbor an injury, the action is unkind, and therefore bad, though it do
him no harm, or though it even result to his benefit. If I mean to perform
an action, good or bad, and am prevented from performing it by some
unforeseen hindrance, the act is as truly mine as if I had performed it.
Words which have any meaning are actions. So are thoughts which we
purposely call up, or retain in the mind.

On the other hand, the actions which we are compelled to perform against
our wishes, and the thoughts which are forced upon our minds, without our
own consent, are not our actions. This is obviously true when our
fellow-men forcibly compel us to do or to hear things which we do not wish
to do or to hear. It is their action solely, and we have no more part in
it than if we were brute beasts, or inanimate objects. It is, then, the
intention that gives character to the action.

That we commonly do what we intend to do there can be no doubt. We do not
act under _immediate_ compulsion. We are, therefore, free _agents_, or
actors. But are our intentions free? Is it in our power to will otherwise
than we will? When we choose to perform an act that is just or kind, is it
in our power to choose to perform an act of the opposite character? In
other words, is the _will_ free? If it be not so, then what we call our
intentions are not ours, but are to be attributed to the superior will
which has given direction to our wills. If God has so arranged the order
of nature and the course of events as to force my will in certain
directions, good or evil, then it is He that does the good or evil which I
seem to do. On this supposition God is the only agent or actor in the
universe. Evil, if it be wrought, is wrought by Him alone; and if we
cannot admit that the Supreme Being does evil, the only alternative is to
deny the existence of evil, and to maintain that what we call evil bears
an essential part in the production of good. For instance, if the horrible
enormities imputed to Nero were utterly bad, the evil that was in them is
chargeable, not on Nero, but on God; or if it be maintained that God
cannot do evil, then Nero was an instrument for the advancement of human
happiness and well-being.

What reasons have we for believing that the human will is free?

1. We have the direct evidence of consciousness. We are distinctly
conscious, not only of doing as we choose, but of exercising our free
choice among different objects of desire, between immediate and future
enjoyment, between good and evil. Now, though consciousness may sometimes
deceive us, it is the strongest evidence that we can have; we are so
constituted that we cannot refuse our credence to it; and our belief in it
lies at the basis of all evidence and of all knowledge.

2. We are clearly conscious of merit or demerit, of self-approval or
self-condemnation, in consequence of our actions. If our wills were acted
upon by a force beyond our control, we might congratulate or pity
ourselves, but we could not praise or blame ourselves, for what we had

3. We praise or blame others for their good or evil actions; and in our
conduct toward them we show that we believe them to have been not merely
fortunate or unfortunate, but praiseworthy or blameworthy. So far as we
suppose their wills to have been influenced by circumstances beyond their
control, we regard them with diminished approval or censure. On the other
hand, we give the highest praise to those who have chosen the good amidst
strong temptations to evil, and bestow the severest censure on those who
have done evil with virtuous surroundings and influences. Now our judgment
of others must of necessity be derived from our own consciousness, and if
we regard and treat them as freely willing beings, it can only be because
we know that our own wills are free.

These arguments, all derived from consciousness, can be directly met only
by denying the validity of consciousness as a ground of belief. The
opposing arguments are drawn from sources independent of consciousness.

1. The most obvious objection to the freedom of the human will is derived
from the power of motives. It is said, We never act without a motive; we
always yield to the strongest motive; and motives are not of our own
creation or choice, but are brought to bear upon us independently of our
own action. There has been, from the creation until now, an unbroken
series of causes and effects, and we can trace every human volition to
some anterior cause or causes belonging to this inevitable series, so
that, in order for the volition to have been other than it was, some
member of this series must have been displaced.

To this it may be answered:—

(_a_) We are capable of acting without a motive, and we do so act in
numberless instances. It was a common saying among the Schoolmen, that an
ass, at equal distances from two equal bundles of hay, would starve to
death for lack of a motive to choose either. But have we any motive
whatever in the many cases in which we choose—sometimes after the vain
endeavor to discover a ground of preference—between two equally valuable,
beautiful, or appetizing objects, between two equally pleasant routes to
the same terminus, or between two equally agreeable modes of passing a
leisure day or hour? Yet this choice, made without motive, may be a
fruitful cause of motives that shall have a large influence in the future.
Thus, on the route which one chooses without any assignable reason, he may
encounter persons or events that shall modify his whole plan of life. The
instances are by no means few, in which the most decisive results have
ensued upon a choice thus made entirely without motive.

(_b_) Motives of equal strength act differently on different temperaments.
The same motive, when it stands alone, with no opposing motive, has not
the same effect on different minds. There is in the will of every human
being a certain reluctance to action—in some greater, in others
less—corresponding to the _vis inertiæ_ in inanimate substances; and as
the impulse which will move a wooden ball may not suffice to move a leaden
ball, so the motive which will start into action a quick and sensitive
temperament, may produce no effect on a person of more sluggish nature.
Thus, among men utterly destitute of honesty, some are tempted by the most
paltry opportunities for theft or fraud; others, not one whit more
scrupulous, have their cupidity aroused only by the prospect of some
substantial gain. So, too, some sincerely benevolent persons are moved to
charitable actions by the slightest needs and sufferings; others, equally
kind and generous, have their sympathies excited only on grave occasions
and by imperative claims. Motives, then, have not a determinate and
calculable strength, but a power which varies with the previous character
of the person to whom they are addressed. Moreover, the greater or less
susceptibility to motives from without is not a difference produced by
education or surroundings; for it may be traced in children from the
earliest development of character. Nor can it be hereditary; for it may be
found among children of the same parents, and not infrequently between
twins nurtured under precisely the same care, instruction, and discipline.

(_c_) External motives are not the causes of action, but merely its
occasions or opportunities. The cause of the action already exists in the
character of the agent, before the motive presents itself. A purse of gold
that may be stolen without detection is an irresistible motive to a thief,
or to a person who, though not previously a thief, is covetous and
unprincipled; but the same purse might lie in the way of an honest man
every day for a month, and it would not make him a thief. If I recognize
the presence of a motive, I must perform some action, whether exterior or
internal; but whether that action will be in accordance with the motive,
or in the opposite direction, is determined by my previous character and
habits of action.

(_d_) The objection which we are considering assumes, without sufficient
reason, that the phenomena of human action are closely analogous to those
of motion in the material world. The analogy fails in several particulars.
No material object can act on itself and change its own nature,
adaptations, or uses, without any external cause; but the human mind can
act upon itself without any external cause, as in repentance, serious
reflection, religious purposes and aims. Then again, if two or more forces
in different directions act upon a material object, its motion is not in
the direction of either, or with the momentum derived from either, but in
a direction and with a momentum resulting from the composition of these
forces; whereas the human will, in the presence of two or more motives,
pursues the direction and yields to the force of but one of those motives.
We are not, then, authorized to reason about the power of motives from the
action of material forces.

(_e_) Were the arguments against the freedom of the will logically sound
and unanswerable, they would be of no avail against the testimony of
consciousness. Axioms, intuitive beliefs, and truths of consciousness can
be neither proved nor disproved by reasoning; and the reasoning by which
they seem to be disproved only evinces that they are beyond the range and
reach of argument. Thus it may be maintained with show of reason that
motion is impossible; for an object cannot move where it is, and cannot
move where it is not,—a dilemma which does not disprove the reality of
motion, but simply indicates that the reality of motion, being an
intuitive belief, neither needs nor admits logical proof.

2. It is urged against the freedom of the human will that it is
inconsistent with God’s foreknowledge of future events, and thus
represents the Supreme Being as not omniscient, and in that particular
finite and imperfect.

To this objection we reply:—

(_a_) If human freedom and the Divine foreknowledge of human acts are
mutually incompatible, we must still retain the freedom of the will as a
truth of consciousness; for if we discredit our own consciousness, we
cannot trust even the act of the understanding by which we set it aside,
which act we know by the testimony of consciousness alone.

(_b_) If the acts of a freely willing being cannot be foreknown, the
ignorance of them does not detract from the perfectness of the Supreme
Being. Omnipotence cannot make two and two five. Omnipotence cannot do
what is intrinsically impossible. No more can Omniscience know what is
intrinsically unknowable.

(_c_) If God’s foreknowledge is entire, it must include his own acts, no
less than those of men. If his foreknowledge of men’s acts is incompatible
with their freedom, then his foreknowledge of his own acts is incompatible
with his own freedom. We have, therefore, on the theory of necessity,
instead of a Supreme Will on the throne of the universe, mere fate or
destiny. This is equivalent to the denial of a personal God.

(_d_) It cannot be proved that God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will are
incompatible with each other. The most that we can say is that we do not
fully see how they are to be reconciled, which is the case with many pairs
of undoubted truths that might be named. But while a perfect explanation
of the harmony of the Divine foreknowledge and human freedom is beyond the
scope of our faculties, we may explain it in part, from our own
experience. Human foreknowledge extends very far and with a great degree
of certainty, without abridging the freedom of those to whom it relates.
When we can foresee outward events, we can often foretell, with little
danger of mistake, the courses of conduct to which they will give rise. In
view of the extent and accuracy of human foresight, we cannot pronounce it
impossible, that He who possesses antecedent knowledge of the native
constitution of every human being, and of the shaping circumstances and
influences to which each being is subjected, may foreknow men’s acts, even
though their wills be entirely free.

                               Chapter II.


There are certain elements of the human constitution, in part natural, in
part acquired, which always prompt and urge men to action, without
reference to the good or evil there may be in the action, and without
reference to its ultimate effects on the actor’s well-being. These are the
Appetites, the Desires, and the Affections.

                                Section I.

The Appetites.

The Appetites are cravings of the body, adapted, and undoubtedly designed,
to secure the continued life of the individual and the preservation of the
species. They are common to man with the lower orders of animals, with
this difference, that in man they may be controlled, directed, modified,
in part suppressed, while in brutes they are uncontrollable, and always
tend to the same modes of gratification.

Appetite is intermittent. When gratified, it ceases for a time, and is
renewed for the same person nearly at the same intervals, and under
similar circumstances. It is, while it lasts, an uneasy, even a painful
sensation, and therefore demands prompt relief, and leads to action with a
view to such relief. It is also a characteristic of appetite that its
indulgence is attended, not merely by relief, but by positive pleasure.

The appetites are essential to the well-being of men, individually and
collectively. Were it not for the pain of hunger and thirst, and the
pleasure of gratifying them, both indolence and engrossing industry would
draw off the attention of men from their bodily needs; nourishment would
be taken irregularly, and with little reference to quality; and one would
often become aware of his neglect only too late to arrest its
consequences. A similar remark applies to the appetite designed to secure
the preservation of the species. But for this, it may be doubted whether
men would willingly take upon themselves the cares, labors,
responsibilities, and contingent disappointments and sorrows involved in
the rearing of children.

In a life conformed to nature, hunger and thirst recur only when the body
actually needs the supply which they crave. But stimulating food, by the
reaction that follows strong excitement of any portion of the nervous
system, may create hunger when there is no need of food, and in like
manner not only intoxicating, but highly stimulating liquids, may occasion
an excessive, morbid, and injurious thirst.

Appetite is modified by habit. There is hardly any substance so offensive
that it may not by use become agreeable, then an object of desire, and, at
length, of intense craving.

The craving for repose and that for muscular action, though not classed
among the appetites, have all their characteristics, and serve similar
ends in the economy of human life. After a certain period of activity,
rest is felt as a bodily necessity, as food is, after long fasting; and in
like manner, when the wearied muscles have had their due repose, there is
an irresistible tendency to their exercise, without reference to any
special employment or recreation. It is by the alternation of these
tendencies that the active and industrious are saved from the ruinous
consequences of overtasked limbs or brain, and that the indolent are urged
to the reluctant activity without which health and life itself would be

The appetites, being mere bodily impulses, and being all liable to excess
or misdirection, need the control of the will, and of the principles of
action by which the will is determined and regulated.

                               Section II.

The Desires.

The Desires are distinguished from the Appetites, first, in their not
originating from the body; secondly, in their not being necessarily
intermittent; and thirdly, in their tendency to increase indefinitely,
often through the whole of life, and to gain strength by the attainment of
their specific objects. If classified by their objects, they might seem
too numerous to be specified; but they may all be embraced under the
titles of the Desire for Knowledge, for Society, for Esteem, for Power,
and for Superiority. These all may be traced, in a more or less
rudimentary form, in the inferior animals. Many of these animals show an
active curiosity. Many are gregarious in their native state, and most of
the domestic animals delight in the society of their kind; some take
manifest pleasure in human society; and the instances are by no means
rare, in which animals, by nature mutually hostile, become strongly
attached to each other, and render to each other the most friendly
services. The dog, the horse, and the cat evidently crave the esteem of
human beings, and show tokens of genuine grief when they incur rebuke or
discern tokens of disapproval. The dog maintains with watchful jealousy
his own authority in his own peculiar domain; and in the chase or on the
race-ground the dog and the horse are as emulous of success as their

*1. The Desire of Knowledge.* This in the human being is manifested with
the earliest dawn of intelligence. The infant is busy with eye and hand
throughout his waking hours; and that the desire of knowledge is innate,
and has no reference to the use that is to be made of the things known, is
manifest from the rapid growth of knowledge in the first years of life,
before the child has any distinct conception of the uses of objects, or
any conscious capacity of employing them for his own benefit. It may be
doubted whether in any subsequent year of life so much knowledge is
acquired as during the first year. The child but a year old has learned
the nature of the familiar objects of the house and the street, the faces
and names of a large number of relatives, domestics, and acquaintances,
the regular succession of seasons and events in daily domestic life, and
the meanings of most of the words that are addressed to him or employed
concerning him and the objects around him. In more advanced life this
desire grows by what it feeds on, and never ceases to be active. It
assumes, indeed, different directions, in part determining, and in part
determined by, condition, profession, or employment. Even in the most idle
and frivolous, it is strong, often intense, though its objects be
worthless. Such persons frequently are as sedulous in collecting the
paltry gossip of society as the naturalist in acquiring the knowledge of
new species of plants or insects, and as ingenious in their inferences
from what they see and hear as the philosopher in his inductions from the
facts of science.

Not only in infancy, but through life, knowledge is sought evidently for
its own sake, and not merely for its uses. But a very small part of what
one knows can be made of practical utility as to his own comfort or
emolument. Many, indeed, voluntarily sacrifice ease, gain, position, in
the pursuit of science or literature. Fame, if it accrues, is not
unwelcome; but by the higher order of minds fame is not pursued as an end,
and there are many departments of knowledge in which little or no
reputation is to be attained. Then, too, it is not the learner, but the
teacher, not the profound scholar, merely, but the able expositor,
speaker, or writer, who can expect a distinguished name; while there are
many who content themselves with acquiring knowledge, without attempting
publicity. Nor yet can benevolence account for the love of knowledge.
Many, indeed, make their attainments the property of others, and are
zealous in diffusing their own scientific views, or in dispensing
instruction in their own departments. But there are also many solitary,
recluse students; and it may be doubted whether, if a man who is earnestly
engaged in any intellectual pursuit were shut out entirely from human
society, and left alone with his books or with nature, his diligence would
be relaxed, or his ardor abated.

*2. The Desire of Society.* This, also, is manifested so early as to show
that it is an original, and not an acquired principle. Little children
dread solitude, crave the presence of familiar faces, and evince pleasure
in the company of children of their own age. A child, reared in
comparative seclusion and silence, however tenderly, suffers often in
health, always in mental vigor and elasticity; while in a large family,
and in intimate association with companions of his own age, the individual
child has the fullest and most rapid development of all his powers. There
is, indeed, in the lives of many children, a period when the presence of
strangers is unwelcome; but this state of feeling—seldom of long
duration—can in most instances be traced to some sudden fright, harsh
voice, or imagined neglect or unkindness.

The natural course of human life proves that man is by the necessity of
his nature a social being. The young of other animals are at a very early
period emancipated and forsaken by their parents, while the human child
has many years of dependence, and is hardly prepared to dispense with the
shelter and kind offices of his native home, when he is moved to create a
new home of his own.

There is no pursuit in life in which a community of interest fails to give
added zest and energy. There is no possible ground of association on which
societies are not formed, and the trivial, fictitious, or imaginary
pretences on which men thus combine, meet, and act in concert, are
manifest proofs of a social proclivity so strong as to create reasons for
its indulgence where such reasons do not already exist. Even in science
and in the most abstruse forms of erudition, men of learning seek mutual
countenance and encouragement, and readily suspend their solitary research
and study for the opportunity of intercommunication on the subjects and
objects of their pursuit. The cases in which society is voluntarily
shunned or forsaken are as rare as the cases of congenital disease or
deformity; and for every such instance there may generally be assigned
some grave, if not sufficient, cause. Religious asceticism has, indeed,
induced many persons, especially in the early Christian ages, to lead a
solitary life; but the cœnobites have always vastly outnumbered the
hermits; _monasteries_ (solitary abodes) have become _convents_
(assemblages); and those who are shut out from the rest of the world find
comfort in social devotion, in the common refectory, and in those seasons
of recreation when the law of silence is suspended. For prisoners solitary
confinement has been found deleterious both to body and mind, and this
system, instituted with philanthropic purpose, and commended on grounds
that seemed intimately connected with the reformation of the guilty, is
now generally repudiated as doing violence to human nature. Even for the
insane, society, with judicious classification and restriction, is an
essential part of curative treatment, and the success of asylums, as
compared with the most skilful and humane private treatment, is due in
great part to the social element.

It cannot be maintained that the desire of society results from fear, and
from the felt need of mutual protection; for it exists in full at the most
fearless periods of life, and among those who are the least timid, and is
equally manifest in the strong and the weak, in those who can proffer and
in those who might crave protection.

*3. The Desire of Esteem.* It is almost superfluous to say that this is a
native and indestructible element of the human constitution. Its first
manifestations bear even date with the earliest displays of intelligence
and affection. To the infant, approval is reward; rebuke, even by look, is
punishment. The hope of esteem is the most healthful and effective
stimulant in the difficult tasks of childhood and of school-life. Under
the discipline of parents both wise and good, it is among the most
important and salutary means of moral discipline. It is seldom deficient
in young persons. Their chief danger lies in its excess; for when it is
too strongly developed, it inclines them to seek at all hazards the
approval of their associates for the time being. Hence the chief danger
from vicious or unscrupulous associates. The first steps in vice are
oftener prompted, no doubt, by the desire for the complacent regard of
one’s companions than by an antecedent disposition to evil. Indeed, the
confession is often made, that these steps were taken with compunction and
horror, solely from the fear of ridicule and from the desire to win the
approval and favor of older transgressors.

On the other hand, the desire of the esteem of good men is one of the
strongest auxiliary motives to virtue; while a yearning for the Divine
approval forms an essential part of true piety towards God.

*4. The Desire of Power.* This is manifested in every period of life, and
in the exercise of every faculty, bodily, mental, and moral. It is this
which gives us pleasure in solitary exercises of physical strength, in
climbing mountains, swimming, lifting heavy weights, performing difficult
gymnastic feats. It is this, more than deliberate cruelty, that induces
boys to torture animals, or to oppress and torment their weaker or more
timid companions.

In intellectual pursuits, the love of power leads to many exercises and
efforts that have no ulterior result. The mathematician will turn aside
from his course of study to master a problem, which involves no new
principle, but is merely difficult and perplexing. The reading of books
obscurely written, or in languages that task the utmost power of analysis,
frequently has no other result, and probably no other object, than the
trial of strength. What can be attained only by strenuous mental labor, is
for that very reason sought, even if it promise no utility.

In the affairs of practical life, every man desires to make his influence
felt. With persons of the highest character, the love of power is manifest
in connection with the aim to be useful. Even the most modest men, while
they may spurn flattery, are gladdened by knowing that they are acting
upon the wills and shaping the characters of those around them.

The love of property belongs in great part under this head. Money is
power, preëminently so at the present day. Property confers influence, and
puts at one’s command resources that may be the means of extended and
growing power alike over inanimate nature and the wills of men. Avarice,
or the desire of money for its own sake, is not an original desire. Few or
none are avaricious in very early life. But money, first sought for the
power it confers, from being a means becomes an end, to such a degree
that, in order to possess it, the miser will forego the very uses for
which he at the outset learned to value it.

*5. The Desire of Superiority.* This is so nearly universal in all
conditions of society, and at all periods of life, that it must be
regarded as an original element of human nature. Without it there would be
little progress. In every department of life, men stimulate one another
toward a higher standard of endeavor, attainment, or excellence. What each
does, his neighbor would fain outdo; what each becomes, his neighbor would
fain surpass. It is only by perversion that this desire tends to evil. It
finds its proper satisfaction, not in crushing, depressing, or injuring a
rival, but barely in overtaking and excelling him; and the higher his
point of attainment, the greater is the complacency experienced in
reaching and transcending it. On the race-ground, I do not want to compete
with a slow runner, nor will it afford me the slightest satisfaction to
win the race by tripping up my competitor; what I want is to match myself
with the best runner on a fair field, and to show myself his equal or
superior. The object striven for is the individual’s own ideal, and those
whom he successively passes on his course mark but successive stages on
his progress toward that ideal. Thus, in the pursuit of moral excellence,
it is only a mean and a bad man who can imagine that he gains anything by
detracting from the merit of others; but he who is sincerely contending
for a high place among virtuous men, rejoices in the signal examples of
goodness of every kind which it is his privilege to emulate, and rejoices
most of all that the ideal of perfect excellence—once only actualized in
human form—is so pure and lofty that it may be his life-work to approach
it without reaching it.

Emulation is not envy, nor need it lead to envy. Among those who strive
for superiority there need be no collision. The natural desire is to _be_,
not to _seem_, superior; to have the consciousness, not the mere outward
semblance, of high attainment; and of attainment, not by a conventional,
but by an absolute standard; and this aim excludes none,—there may be as
many first places as there are deserving candidates for them. Then, too,
there is so wide a diversity of ideals, both in degree and in kind, there
are so many different ruling aims, and so many different routes by which
these aims are pursued, that there need be little danger of mutual
interference. Even as regards external rewards, so far as they depend on
the bounty of nature, the constitution of society, or the general esteem
and good will of men, the success of one does not preclude the equal
success of many; but, on the other hand, the merited prosperity and honor
of the individual cannot fail to be of benefit to the whole community. It
is only in offices contingent on election or appointment that the aspirant
incurs a heavy risk of failure; but when we consider how meanly men are
often compelled to creep into office and to grovel in it, it can hardly be
supposed that a genuine desire of superiority holds a prominent place
among the motives of these who are willingly dependent on patronage or on
popular suffrage.

These desires, according as one or another has the ascendency, prompt to
action, without reference to the good or the evil there may be in the
action; and they therefore need the control of reason, and of the
principles which reason recognizes in the government of conduct.

                               Section III.

The Affections.

*The Affections are distinguished from the Desires*, mainly in these two
particulars: first, that the Desires are for impersonal objects, the
Affections, for persons; and secondly, that the Desires prompt to actions
that have a direct reference to one’s self; the Affections, to actions
that have a direct reference to others.

The Affections are *benevolent* or *malevolent*.

1. The *benevolent affections* are Love, Reverence, Gratitude, Kindness,
Pity, and Sympathy.

*Love* needs no definition, and admits of none. It probably never exists
uncaused; though it survives all real or imagined ground for it, and in
some cases seems rendered only the more intense by the admitted
unworthiness of its object. When it is not the reason for marriage, it can
hardly fail to grow from the conjugal relation between one man and one
woman, if the mutual duties belonging to that relation be held sacred. It
is inconceivable that a mother should not love her child, inevitably cast
upon her protection from the first moment of his being; the father who
extends a father’s care over his children finds in that care a constant
source of love; and the children, waking into conscious life under the
ministries of parental benignity and kindness, have no emotion so early,
and no early emotion so strong, as filial love. It may be doubted whether
there is among the members of the same family a _natural_ affection,
independent of relations practically recognized in domestic life. It is
very certain that at both extremities of the social scale family affection
is liable to be impaired, on the one hand, by the delegation of parental
duties to hirelings, and, on the other, by the inability to render them
constantly and efficiently. We may observe also a difference in family
affection, traceable indirectly to the influence of climate. Out-of-door
life is unfavorable to the intimate union of families; while domestic love
is manifestly the strongest in those countries where the shelter and
hearth of the common home are necessary for a large portion of the year.

*Friendship* is but another name for love between persons unconnected by
domestic relations, actual or prospective.

*Love for the Supreme Being*, or piety, differs not in kind from the
child’s love for the parent; but it rightfully transcends all other love,
inasmuch as the benefits received from God include and surpass all other
benefits. To awake, then, to a consciousness of our actual relation to
God, is “to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding,
and all the soul, and all the strength.”

*Reverence* is the sentiment inspired by advanced superiority in such
traits of mind and character as we regard with complacency in ourselves,
or with esteem in our equals. Qualities which we do not esteem we may
behold with _admiration_ (that is, wonder), but not with reverence. Our
reverence for age is not for advanced years alone, but for the valuable
experience which they are supposed to have given, and especially for the
maturity of excellence which belongs to the old age of good men, of which
their features generally bear the impress, and which, in the absence of
knowledge, we are prone to ascribe to a venerable mien and aspect. A
foolish or wicked old man commands no reverence by his years.

God, as possessing in infinite fulness all the properties which we revere
in man, must ever be the worthy object of supreme reverence.

Gratitude, though it can hardly be disjoined from love, is seldom
cherished for the same person in the same degree with love. We love our
beneficiaries more than our benefactors. We love those dependent upon us
more than those on whom we depend. The mother’s love for her child is the
strongest of human affections, and undoubtedly exceeds that even of the
child for the mother to whom he owes every benefit and blessing under
heaven. We may be fervently grateful to persons whom we have never seen;
but there cannot be much vividness in our love for them. Love to God, whom
we have not seen, needs to be kindled, renewed, and sustained by gratitude
for the incessant flow of benefits from Him, and by the promise—contingent
on character—of blessings immeasurable and everlasting.

*Kindness* is benevolence for one’s _kind_,—a delight in their happiness
and well-being, a readiness to perform friendly offices whenever and
however they may be needed. In its lower forms it is designated as _good
nature_; when intense and universal, it is termed _philanthropy_. It
befits the individual man as a member of a race of kindred, and is deemed
so essential an attribute of the human character, that he who utterly
lacks it is branded as _inhuman_, while its active exercise in the relief
of want and suffering is emphatically termed _humanity_.

Pity is the emotion occasioned by the sight or knowledge of distress or
pain. While without it there can be no genuine kindness, it may exist
without kindness. There are persons tenderly sensitive to every form of
suffering, who yet feel only for the sufferer, not with him, and who would
regard and treat him coldly or harshly, if he were not a sufferer. In such
cases, pity would seem to be a selfish feeling; and there can be no doubt
that some men relieve distress and poverty, as they would remove weeds
from a flower-bed, because they are offensive to the sight.

*Sympathy* is feeling, not for, but with others.(1) It has for its objects
successes and joys, no less than sufferings and sorrows; and probably is
as real and intense in the case of the former as of the latter, though its
necessity is less felt and its offices are less prized in happy than in
sad experiences. Kindness alone cannot produce sympathy. In order to feel
with another, we must either have passed through similar experiences, or
must have an imagination sufficiently vivid to make them distinctly
present to our thought. This latter power is by no means necessary to
create even the highest degree of kindness or of pity; and among the most
active and persevering in works of practical beneficence, there are many
who feel intensely for, yet but faintly with, the objects of their
charity. On the other hand, sympathy sometimes finds its chief exercise in
sensational literature, and there are persons, profoundly moved by
fictitious representations of distress, who yet remain inactive and
indifferent as regards the real needs and sufferings around them that
crave relief.

2. The *malevolent affections* are Anger, Resentment, Envy, Revenge, and

*Anger* is the sense of indignation occasioned by real or imagined wrong.
When excited by actual wrong-doing, and when contained within reasonable
bounds, it is not only innocent, but salutary. It intensifies the virtuous
feeling which gives it birth; and its due expression is among the
safeguards of society against corruption and evil. But when indulged
without sufficient cause, or suffered to become excessive or to outlast
its occasion, it is in itself evil, and it may lead to any and every form
of social injustice, and of outrage against the rights of man and the law
of God.

*Resentment* is the feeling excited by injury done to ourselves. This also
is innocent and natural, when its occasion is sufficient, and its limits
reasonable. It may prevent the repetition of injury, and the spontaneous
tendency to it, which is almost universal, is an efficient defence against
insult, indignity, and encroachment on the rights of individuals. But,
indulged or prolonged beyond the necessity of self-defence, it is prone to
reverse the parties, and to make the injured person himself the

Both anger and resentment are *painful emotions*, and on this account are
self-limited in a well-ordered mind. He who makes happiness his aim will,
if wise, give these disturbing forces the least possible hold upon him,
whether in intensity or in duration.

*Envy* has been defined as the excess of emulation. It seems rather to be
a deficiency in the genuine principle of emulation. The instinctive desire
of superiority leads us, as we have seen, to aim at _absolutely_ high
attainments, and to measure ourselves less by what others are, than by our
own ideal. It is only those of lower aims, who seek to supplant others on
their career. Envy is the attempt, not to rise or excel, but to stand
comparatively high by subverting those who hold or seek a higher position.
No just man voted for the banishment of Aristides because he was always
called the Just; but his ostracism was the decree of those who knew that
they could obtain no reputation for justice till he were put out of their

*Revenge* is the desire to inflict evil for evil. In principle it is
always wrong; for the evil-doer, though he may merit transient anger and
resentment, is not therefore placed beyond our benevolence, but is rather
commended to our charity as one who may be reformed and may become worthy
of our esteem. In practice, revenge can scarce ever be just. Our self-love
so exaggerates our estimate of the wrong we receive, that we could hardly
fail to retaliate by greater wrong, and thus to provoke a renewal of the
injury. There are, no doubt, cases in which self-defence may authorize the
immediate chastisement or disabling of the wrong-doer, and in an unsettled
state of society, where there is no legal protection, it may be the right
of individuals to punish depredation or personal outrage; but acts of this
kind are to be justified on the plea of necessity, not of revenge.

*Hatred* is the result of either of the malevolent affections above named,
when carried to excess, or suffered to become permanent. It precludes the
exercise of all the benevolent affections. No man can rightfully be the
object of hatred; for there is no man who has not within him some element
or possibility of good, none who has not rights that should be respected,
none who is not entitled to pity for his sufferings, and, still more, for
his sins.

                                * * * * *

The affections, benevolent and malevolent, are common to man with lower
animals. Love and hatred are manifested by all of them whose habits are
open to our inspection; anger, by not a few; gratitude, kindness, pity,
sympathy, resentment, and revenge, by the more intelligent; envy, by those
most completely domesticated; reverence, perhaps, by the dog towards his

The affections all prompt to action, and do not discriminate the qualities
of actions. Hence they need the control and guidance of reason, and can
safely be indulged only in accordance with the principles which reason
recognizes as supreme in the conduct of life.

                               Chapter III.


The appetites, desires, and affections constitute the *impelling force* in
all action. Were we not possessed of them, we should not act. There is no
act of any kind, good or bad, noble or base, mental or bodily, of which
one or another of them is not the proximate cause. They are also
imperative in their demands. They crave immediate action,—the appetites,
in procuring or using the means of bodily gratification; the desires, in
the increase of their objects; the affections, in seeking or bestowing
their appropriate tokens or expressions, whether good or evil. Were there
no check, the specific appetite, desire, or affection to which
circumstances gave the ascendency for the time being, would act in its
appropriate direction, until counteracted by another, brought into
supremacy by a new series of circumstances. This is the case with brutes,
so far as we can observe their modes of action. Here, in man, reason
intervenes, and takes cognizance of the tendencies and the qualities of

*Reason* considers actions under two points of view,—interest and
obligation,—expediency and right. The questions which we inwardly ask
concerning actions all resolve themselves into one of these,—Is the act
useful or desirable for me? or, Is it my right or my duty? He who is wont
to ask the former of these questions is called a prudent man; he who
habitually asks the latter is termed a virtuous or good man. He who asks
neither of them yields himself, after the manner of the brutes, to the
promptings of appetite, desire, and affection, and thus far omits to
exercise the reason which distinguishes him from the brutes.

There can be no doubt that *expediency and right coincide*. Under the
government of Supreme Benevolence, it is impossible that what ought to be
done should not conduce to the welfare of him who does it. But its
beneficent results may be too remote for him to trace them, nay, may
belong to a life beyond death, to which human cognizance does not reach;
while what ought not to be done may promise substantial benefit so far as
man’s foresight extends. Then, too, it is at least supposable that there
may be cases, in which, were they solitary cases, expediency might diverge
from right, yet in which, because they belong to a class, it is for the
interest of society and of every individual member of society that general
laws should be obeyed. It is obvious also, that there are many cases, in
which the calculation of expediency involves details too numerous and too
complicated to be fully understood by a mind of ordinary discernment,
while the same mind can clearly perceive what course of conduct is in
accordance with the strict rule of right. Still farther, in a question of
conduct in which appetite, desire, or affection is concerned, we cannot
take as calm and dispassionate a view of our true interest, as we should
of the interest of another person in like case. The impelling force may be
so strong, that for the time being we sincerely regard it as
expedient—though we know that it is not right—to yield to it.

For these reasons there is an *apparent conflict between the useful and
the right*. Though a perfectly wise and dispassionate man might give
precisely the same answer in every instance to the question of interest
and that of duty, men, limited and influenced as they are, can hardly fail
in many instances to answer these questions differently. The man who makes
his own imagined good his ruling aim does many things which he would not
defend on the ground of right; the man who determines always to do right
sometimes performs acts of reputed and conscious self-denial and

Nor yet can more *general* considerations of *expediency*, reference to
the good of others, to the greatest good of the greatest number, serve as
a guide to the right or a test of the right. We have less foresight as
regards others than as regards ourselves; the details involved in the true
interest of any community, society, or number of persons, are necessarily
more numerous and complicated than those involved in our own well-being;
and, if not appetite or desire, the benevolent or malevolent affections
are fully as apt to warp our judgment and to misdirect our conduct in the
case of others as in our own case.

We perceive then that *expediency*, whether with reference to ourselves or
to others, *is not a trustworthy rule of conduct*. Yet while it cannot
hold the first place, it occupies an important place; for there are many
cases in which the question before us is not what we ought to do, but what
it is best for us to do. Thus, if there be several acts, all equally
right, only one of which can be performed, we are evidently entitled to
perform the act which will be most pleasing or useful to ourselves. If
there be an end which it is our right or duty to attain, and there be
several equally innocent modes of attaining it, the question for us is, by
which of these modes we may find the least difficulty or gain the highest
enjoyment or advantage. If there be several duties incumbent upon us at
the same time and place, all of which have equal intrinsic claims, yet one
of which must necessarily take precedence of the rest, the question which
shall have precedence is a question of expediency, that by which we may do
the most good being the foremost duty.

*Expediency is not a characteristic of actions.* An act is not in itself
expedient or inexpedient, but is made one or the other by varying
circumstances alone; while there are acts in themselves good which no
possible circumstances could make bad, and there are acts in themselves
bad which no possible circumstances could make good. If, therefore, there
be a science which has for its province the intrinsic qualities of
actions, questions of expediency have no place in such a science.

*Moral Philosophy, or Ethics* (synonymous terms), is the science which
treats of human actions. The term _morals_ is often applied to external
actions; but always with reference to the intentions from which they
proceed. We can conceive of the treatment of actions under various
aspects, as wise or unwise, agreeable or disagreeable, spontaneous or
deliberate; but by the common consent of mankind, at least of the
civilized and enlightened portion of mankind, the distinction of actions
as right or wrong is regarded as of an importance so far transcending all
other distinctions, as to render them of comparatively little moment.
Therefore Moral Philosophy confines itself to this single distinction, and
takes cognizance of others, only as they modify this, or are modified by
it. The questions which Moral Philosophy asks and answers are these:—What
constitutes the right? How is it to be ascertained? Wherein lies the
obligation to the right? What are the motives to right action? What
specific actions, or classes of actions are right, and why? What specific
actions, or classes of actions are wrong, and why?

                               Chapter IV.


Every object, by virtue of its existence, has its *appropriate place,
purpose, uses, and relations*. At every moment, each specific object is
either in or out of its place, fulfilling or not fulfilling its purpose,
subservient to or alienated from its uses, in accordance or out of harmony
with its relations, and therefore in a state of _fitness_ or _unfitness_
as regards other objects. Every object is at every moment under the
control of the intelligent will of the Supreme Being, or of some finite
being, and is by that will maintained either in or out of its place,
purpose, uses, or relations, and thus in a state of fitness or unfitness
with regard to other objects. Every intelligent being, by virtue of his
existence, bears certain definite relations to outward objects, to his
fellow-beings, and to his Creator. At every moment, each intelligent being
is either faithful or unfaithful to these relations, and thus in a state
of fitness or unfitness as regards outward objects and other beings. Thus
fitness or unfitness may be affirmed, at every moment, of every object in
existence, of the volition by which each object is controlled, and of
every intelligent being, with regard to the exercise of his will toward or
upon outward objects or his fellow-beings. Fitness and unfitness are the
ultimate ideas that are involved in the terms _right_ and _wrong_. These
last are metaphorical terms,—right (Latin, _rectus_), straight, upright,
according to rule, and therefore _fit_; wrong, _wrung_, distorted,
deflected, twisted out of place, contrary to rule, and therefore _unfit_.
We are so constituted that we cannot help regarding fitness with
complacency and esteem; unfitness, with disesteem and disapproval, even
though we ourselves create it or impersonate it.

*Fitness* is the only standard by which we regard our own actions or the
actions of others as good or evil,—by which we justify or condemn
ourselves or others. Duty has fitness for its only aim and end. To
whatever object comes under our control, its fit place, purpose, uses, and
relations are _due_; and our perception of what is thus due constitutes
our _duty_, and awakens in us a sense of obligation. To ourselves, and to
other beings and objects, our fidelity to our relations has in it an
intrinsic fitness; that fitness is _due_ to them and to ourselves; and our
perception of what is thus due constitutes our _duty_, and awakens in us a
sense of obligation.

*Right and wrong are not contingent on the knowledge of the moral agent.*
Unfitness, misuse, abuse, is none the less intrinsically wrong, because it
is the result of ignorance. It is out of harmony with the fitness of
things. It deprives an object of its due use. It perverts to pernicious
results what is salutary in its purpose. It lessens for the agent his
aggregate of good and of happiness, and increases for him his aggregate of
evil and of misery. In this sense—far more significant than that of
arbitrary infliction—the well-known maxim of jurisprudence, “Ignorance of
the law excuses no one,”(2) is a fundamental law of nature.

There is, however, an important distinction between *absolute and relative
right*. In action, the absolute right is conduct in entire conformity with
beings and objects as they are; the relative right is conduct in
accordance with beings and objects as, with the best means of knowledge
within our reach, we believe them to be. The Omniscient Being alone can
have perfect knowledge of all beings and things as they are. This
knowledge is possessed by men in different degrees, corresponding to their
respective measures of intelligence, sagacity, culture, and personal or
traditional experience. In the ruder conditions of society, acts that seem
to us atrociously wrong, often proceed from honest and inevitable
misapprehension, are right in their intention, and are therefore proper
objects of moral approbation. In an advanced condition of intelligence,
and especially under high religious culture, though the realm of things
unknown far exceeds that of things known, there is a sufficiently clear
understanding of the objects and relations of ordinary life to secure men
against sins of ignorance, and to leave in their wrong-doing no semblance
or vestige of right.

The distinction between absolute and relative right enables us to
*reconcile two statements that may have seemed inconsistent* with each
other, namely, that “the character of an action, whether good or bad,
depends on the intention of the agent,” and “that unfitness, misuse,
abuse, is none the less wrong because the result of ignorance.” Both these
propositions are true. The same act may be in intent right and good, and
yet, through defect of knowledge, wrong and evil; and it may, in virtue of
its good intent, be attended and followed by beneficent results, while at
the same time the evil that there is in it may be attended or followed by
injurious consequences. We may best illustrate this double character of
actions by a case so simple that we can see through it at a single glance.
I will suppose that I carry to a sick person a potion which I believe to
be an efficient remedy, but which, by a mistake for which I am not
accountable, proves to be a deadly poison. My act, by the standard of
absolute right, is an unfitting and therefore a wrong act, and it has its
inevitable result in killing the patient. But because my intention was
right, I have not placed myself in any wrong relation to God or man. Nay,
if I procured what I supposed to be a healing potion with care, cost, and
trouble, and for one whose suffering and need were his only claim upon me,
I have by my labor of love brought myself into an even more intimate
relation, filial and fraternal, with God and man, the result of which must
be my enhanced usefulness and happiness. If on the other hand I had meant
to poison the man, but had by mistake given him a healing potion, my act
would have been absolutely right, because conformed to the fitness of
things, but relatively wrong, because in its intention and purpose opposed
to the fitness of things; and as in itself fitting, it would have done the
sick man good, while, as in its purpose unfitting, it would have thrown me
out of the relations in which I ought to stand both with God and man.

*Mistakes as to specific acts of duty* bear the closest possible analogy
to the case of the poison given for medicine. The savage, who sincerely
means to express reverence, kindness, loyalty, fidelity, may perform, in
the expression of those sentiments, acts that are utterly unfitting, and
therefore utterly wrong; and if so, each of these acts produces its due
consequences, it may be, baleful and lamentable. Yet because he did the
best he knew in the expression of these sentiments, he has not sunk, but
risen in his character as a moral being,—has become better and more
capable of good.

*Ignorance of the right*, however, *is innocent, only when inevitable*. At
the moment of action, indeed, what seems to me fitting is relatively
right, and were I to do otherwise, even though my act were absolutely
right, it would be relatively wrong. But if I have had and neglected the
means of knowing the right, I have violated the fitnesses of my own nature
by not employing my cognitive powers on subjects of vital importance to my
well-being. In this case, though what are called the sins of ignorance may
be mistakes and not sins, the ignorance itself has all the characteristics
that attach themselves to the term _sin_, and must be attended with
proportionally *harmful consequences to the offender*.

                                Chapter V.


                                Section I.


*Conscience is a means*, not a source, *of knowledge*. It is analogous to
sight and hearing. It is the power of perceiving fitness and unfitness.
Yet more, it is consciousness,—a sense of our own personal relation to the
fitting and the unfitting, of our power of actualizing them in intention,
will, and conduct. It is in this last particular that man differs from the
lower animals. They have an instinctive perception of fitness, and an
instinctive impulse to acts befitting their nature. But no brute says to
himself, “I am acting in accordance with the fitness of things;” while man
virtually says to himself, in every act, “I am doing what it is fit for me
to do,” or, “I am doing what it is unfitting for me to do.”

*Conscience is a judicial faculty.* Its decisions are based upon such
knowledge as the individual has, whether real or imagined, and from
whatever source derived. It judges according to such law and evidence as
are placed before it. Its verdict is always relatively right, a genuine
verdict (_verum dictum_), though, by the absolute standard of right, it
may be wrong, through defect of knowledge,—precisely as in a court of law
an infallibly wise and incorruptibly just judge may pronounce an utterly
erroneous or unjust decision, if he have before him a false statement of
facts, or if the law which he is compelled to administer be unrighteous.

We may *illustrate the function of conscience* by reference to a question
now agitated in our community,—the question as to the moral fitness of the
moderate use of fermented liquors. In civilized society, intoxication is
universally known to be opposed to the fitnesses of body and mind, an
abuse of alcoholic liquors, and an abuse of the drinker’s own personality;
and it is therefore condemned by all consciences, by none more heartily
than by those of its victims. But there still remains open the question
whether entire abstinence from fermented liquors be a duty, and this is a
question of fact. Says one party, “Alcohol, in every form, and in the
least quantity, is a virulent poison, and therefore unfit for body and
mind.” Says the other party, “Wine, moderately used, is healthful,
salutary, restorative, and therefore fitted to body and mind.” Change the
opinion of the latter party, their consciences would at once take the
other side; and if they retained in precept and practice their present
position, they would retain it self-condemned. Change the opinion of the
former party, their consciences would assume the ground which they now
assail. Demonstrate to the whole community—as it is to be hoped physiology
will do at no distant day—the precise truth in this matter, there would
remain no difference of conscientious judgment, whatever difference of
practice might still continue.

*Conscience*, like all the perceptive faculties, *prompts to action in
accordance with its perceptions*. In this respect it differs not in the
least from sight, hearing, taste. Our natural proclivity is to direct our
movements with reference to the objects within the field of our vision, to
govern our conduct by what we hear, to take into our mouths only
substances that are pleasing to the taste. Yet fright, temerity, or
courage may impel us to incur dangers which we clearly see; opiniativeness
or obstinacy may make us inwardly deaf to counsels or warnings which we
hear; and motives of health may induce us to swallow the most nauseous
drugs. In like manner, our inevitable tendency is to govern our conduct by
the fitness of things when clearly perceived; but intense and unrestrained
appetite, desire, or affection may lead us to violate that fitness, though
distinctly seen and acknowledged.

*Men act in opposition to conscience only under immediate and strong
temptation.* The great majority of the acts of bad men are conscientious,
but not therefore meritorious; for merit consists not in doing right when
there is no temptation to evil, but in resisting temptation. But, as has
been said, it is as natural, when there is no inducement to the contrary,
to act in accordance with the fitness of things, as it is to act in
accordance with what we see and hear. It is the tendency so to act, that
alone renders human society possible, in the absence of high moral
principle. In order to live, a man must so act with reference to outward
nature; still more must he so act, in order to possess human fellowship,
physical comfort, transient enjoyment, of however low a type; and the most
depraved wretch that walks the earth purchases his continued being and
whatever pleasure he derives from it by a thousand acts in accordance with
the fitness of things to one in which he violates that fitness.

*Conscience*, like all the perceptive faculties, *is educated by use*. The
watchmaker’s or the botanist’s eye acquires an almost microscopic keenness
of vision. The blind man’s hearing is so trained as to supply, in great
part, the lack of sight. The epicure’s taste can discriminate flavors
whose differences are imperceptible to an ordinary palate. In like manner,
the conscience that is constantly and carefully exercised in judging of
the fit and the unfitting, the right and the wrong, becomes prompt, keen,
searching, sensitive, comprehensive, microscopic. On the other hand,
conscience, like the senses, if seldom called into exercise, becomes
sluggish, inert, incapable of minute discrimination, or of vigilance over
the ordinary conduct of life. Yet it is never extinct, and is never
perverted. When roused to action, even in the most obdurate, it resumes
its judicial severity, and records its verdict in remorseful agony.

Conscience is commonly said to be educated by *the increase of knowledge*
as to the relations of beings and objects, as to the moral laws of the
universe, and as to religious verities. This, however, is not true.
Knowledge does not necessarily quicken the activity of conscience, or
enhance its discriminating power. Conscience often is intense and vivid in
the most ignorant, inactive and torpid in persons whose cognitive powers
have had the most generous culture. Knowledge, indeed, brings the
decisions of conscience into closer and more constant conformity with the
absolute right, but it does not render its decisions more certainly in
accordance with the relative right, that is, with what the individual,
from his point of view, ought to will and do. It has the same effect upon
conscience that accurate testimony has upon the clear-minded and uncorrupt
judge, whose mind is not made thereby the more active or discriminating,
nor his decision brought into closer accordance with the facts as they are
presented to him. Knowledge is indeed an indispensable auxiliary to
conscience; but this cannot be affirmed exclusively of any specific
department of knowledge. It is true of all knowledge; for there is no fact
or law in the universe that may not in some contingency become the
subject-matter or the occasion for the action of conscience. Nothing could
seem more remote from the ordinary field of conscience than the theory of
planetary motion; yet it was this that gave Galileo the one grand
opportunity of his life for testing the supremacy of conscience,—it may
be, the sole occasion on which his conscience uttered itself strongly
against his seeming interest, and one on which obedience to conscience
would have averted the only cloud that ever rested on his fame.

                               Section II.

Sources Of Knowledge. 1. Observation, Experience, And Tradition.

Except so far as there may have been direct communications from the
Supreme Being, all *man’s knowledge* of persons, objects, and relations
*is derived*, in the last resort, *from observation*. Experience is merely
remembered self-observation. Tradition, oral and written, is accumulated
and condensed observation; and by means of this each new generation can
avail itself of the experience of preceding generations, can thus find
time to explore fresh departments of knowledge, and so transmit its own
traditions to the generations that shall follow. Now what we observe in
objects is chiefly their properties, or, what is the same thing, their
_fitnesses_; for a property is that which fits an object for a specific
place or use. What we observe in persons is their relations to other
beings and objects, with the fitnesses that belong to those relations.
What we experience all resolves itself into the fitness or unfitness of
persons and objects to one *another* or to ourselves. What is transmitted
in history and in science is the record of fitnesses or unfitnesses that
have been ascertained by observation, or tested by experience. The
progress of knowledge is simply an enlarged acquaintance with the
fitnesses of persons and things. He knows the most, who most fully
comprehends the relations in which the beings and objects in the universe
stand, have stood, and ought to stand toward one another. Moreover, as
when we see a fitness within our sphere of action, we perceive intuitively
that it is right to respect it, wrong to violate it, our knowledge of
right and wrong is co-extensive with our knowledge of persons and things.
The more enlightened and cultivated a nation is, then, the more does it
know as to right and wrong, whatever may be its standard of practical

For instance, in the most savage condition, men know, with reference to
certain articles of *food and drink*, that they are adapted to relieve the
cravings of hunger and thirst, and they know nothing more about them. They
are not acquainted with the laws of health, whether of body or of mind.
They therefore eat and drink whatever comes to hand, without imagining the
possibility of wrong-doing in this matter. But, with the progress of
civilization, they learn that various kinds of food and drink impair the
health, cloud the brain, enfeeble the working power, and therefore are
unfit for human use; and no sooner is this known, than the distinction of
right and wrong begins to be recognized, as to what men eat and drink. The
more thorough is the knowledge of the human body and of the action of
various substances on its organs and tissues, the more minute and
discriminating will be the perception of fitness or unfitness as to the
objects that tempt the appetites, and the keener will be the sense of
right or wrong in their use.

For another illustration of the same principle, we may take *the relation
between parents and children*. In the ruder stages of society, and
especially among a nomadic or migratory people, there is not a sufficient
knowledge of the resources of nature or the possibilities of art, to
render even healthy and vigorous life more than tolerable; while for the
infirm and feeble, life is but a protracted burden and weariness. At the
same time, there is no apprehension of the intellectual and moral worth of
human life, still less, of the value even of its most painful experiences
as a discipline of everlasting benefit. In fine, life is little more than
a mere struggle for existence. What wonder then, that in some tribes
filial piety has been wont to relieve superannuated parents from an
existence devoid equally of joy and of hope; and that in others parental
love may have even dictated the exposure—with a view to their perishing—of
feeble, sickly, and deformed children, incapable of being nurtured into
self-sustaining and self-depending life? But increased conversance with
nature and art constantly reveals new capacities of comfort and happiness
in life, and that, not for the strong alone, but for the feeble, the
suffering, the helpless, so that there are none to whom humanity knows not
how to render continued life desirable. At the same time, a higher culture
has made it manifest that the frailest body may be the seat of the
loftiest mental activity, moral excellence, and spiritual aspiration, and
that in such a body there is often only a surer and more finished
education for a higher state of being. Filial piety and parental love,
therefore, do all in their power to prolong the flickering existence of
the age-worn and decrepit, and to cherish with tender care the life which
seems born but to die. There is, then, to the limited view of the savage,
an apparent fitness in practices which in their first aspect seem crimes
against nature; while increased knowledge develops a real and essential
fitness, in all the refinements and endearments of the most persevering
and skilful love.

These examples, which might be multiplied indefinitely, show *the
dependence of conscience on knowledge*, not for relatively right
decisions, but for verdicts in accordance with the absolute right. There
is no subject that can be presented for the action of conscience, on
which, upon precisely the same principles, divergent and often opposite
courses of conduct may not be dictated by more or less accurate knowledge
of the subject and its relations.

It will be seen, also, that *with the growth of knowledge, conscience has
a constantly wider scope of action*. The number of indifferent acts is
thus diminished; the number of positively right or wrong acts, increased.
An _indifferent_ act is one for the performance of which, rather than its
opposite, no reason, involving a question of right or wrong, can be given.
Thus, if the performance or the omission of a specific act be equally
fitted to the time, place, circumstances, and persons concerned, the act
is an indifferent one; or, if two or more ways of accomplishing a desired
end be equally fitted to time, place, circumstances, and persons, the
choice between these ways is, morally speaking, a matter of indifference.
But with a knowledge both more extensive and more minute of the nature,
relations, and fitnesses of beings and objects, we find an increasing
number of instances in which acts that seemed indifferent have a clearly
perceptible fitness or unfitness, and thus acquire a distinct moral
character as right or wrong.

                               Section III.

Sources Of Knowledge. 2. Law.

*Law is the result of the collective experience*, in part, of particular
communities, in part, of the human race as a whole. It encourages,
protects, or at least permits whatever acts or modes of conduct have been
found or believed to be fitting, in accordance with the nature of things
and the well-being of men, and therefore right; it forbids and punishes
such acts or modes of conduct as have been found or believed to be
unfitting, opposed to nature and to human well-being, and therefore wrong.
It is far from perfect; it is below the standard of the most advanced
minds; but it represents the average knowledge or belief of the community
to which it belongs. *The laws* of any particular state cannot rise far
above this average; for laws unsustained by general opinion could not be
executed, and if existing in the statute-book, they would not have the
nature and force of law, and would remain on record simply because they
had lapsed out of notice. Nor can they fall far below this average; for no
government can sustain itself while its legislation fails to meet the
demands of the people.

While *law* thus expresses the average knowledge of belief, it *tends to
perpetuate its own moral standard*. The notions of right which it embodies
form a part of the general education. The specific crimes, vices, and
wrongs which the law marks out for punishment are regarded by young
persons, from their earliest years, as worthy of the most emphatic censure
and condemnation; while those which the law leaves unpunished are looked
upon as comparatively slight and venial. Not only so, the degree of
detestation in which a community learns to look on specific crimes and
offences is not in proportion to their actual heinousness, but to the
stress of overt ignominy attached to them by legal penalties. Instances of
this effect of law on opinion will be readily called to mind. Thus a
common thief loses, and can hardly regain his position in society; while
the man who by dishonest bankruptcy commits a hundred thefts in one, can
hold his place unchallenged, even in the Christian church, while it is
known to every one that he is living—it may be in luxury—on the money he
has stolen. The obvious reason is that from time immemorial simple theft
has been punished with due, when not with undue, severity, while the
comparatively recent crime of fraudulent bankruptcy has as yet been
brought very imperfectly within the grasp of penal law. Again, no man of
clear moral discernment can doubt that he who consciously and willingly
imbrutes himself by intoxication is more blameworthy than he who sells
alcoholic liquors without knowing whether they are to be used internally
or externally, moderately or immoderately, for medicine or for luxury. Yet
because the latter makes himself liable to fine and imprisonment, while
the former—unless he belong to the unprivileged classes—has legal
protection, instead of the disgraceful punishment he deserves, there is a
popular prejudice against the vender of strong drink, and a strange
tenderness toward the intemperate consumer. Yet another instance. There
are crimes worse than murder. There are modes of moral corruption and
ruin, whose victims it were mercy to kill. But while the murderer, if he
escape the gallows, is an outcast and an object of universal abhorrence,
no social ban rests upon him whose crime has been the death of innocence
and purity, yet, if reached at all by law, can be compounded by the
payment of money.

But though law is in many respects an imperfect moral teacher, and its
deficiencies are to be regretted, its *educational power* is strongly felt
for good, especially in communities where the administration of justice is
strict and impartial. It is of no little worth that a child grows up with
some fixed beliefs as to the turpitude of certain forms of evil,
especially as the positive enactments of the penal law almost always
coincide with the wisest judgments of the best men in the community.
Moreover, law is progressive in every civilized community, and in
proportion as it approaches the standard of absolute right, it tends to
bring the moral beliefs of the people into closer conformity with the same
standard. It is, then, a partial and narrow view of law to regard it only
or chiefly as the instrument of society for the detection and punishment,
or even for the direct prevention of crime. Its far more important
function is so to train the greater part of each rising generation, that
certain forms and modes of evil-doing shall never enter into their plans
or purposes.

The *civil*, no less than the criminal *law is a source of knowledge as to
the right*. The law does not create, but merely defines the rights
appertaining to persons and property. The laws of different nations are,
indeed, widely different; but there may be that in their respective
histories which makes a difference in the actual rights of citizens, or
their civil codes may present different stages of approach toward the
right. Thus the laws as to the conveyance and inheritance of property are
in some respects unlike in France, England, and the United States, and
vary considerably in the several States of our Union; but there generally
exist historical reasons for this variation, and it would be found that
the ends of justice are best served, and the reasonable expectations of
the people best met in each community, by its own methods of procedure. By
the law of the land, then, we may learn civil rights and obligations,
which we have not the means of ascertaining by our own independent

It remains for us to speak of the *factitious rights and wrongs*, supposed
to be created by law. Of these there are many. Thus one mode of
transacting a sale or transfer is in itself as good as another; and it
might be plausibly maintained that, if the business be fairly and
honorably conducted, it matters not whether the legally prescribed
forms—sometimes burdensome and costly—be complied with or omitted. The
law, it may be said, here creates an obligation for which there is no
ground in nature or the fitness of things. This we deny. It is
intrinsically fitting that all transactions which are liable to dispute or
question should be performed in ways in which they can be attested; and
this cannot be effected except by the establishment of uniform methods. He
who departs from them performs not only an illegal, but an immoral act;
and the legal provisions of the kind under discussion have an educational
value in enlarging the knowledge of the individual as to the conditions
and means of security, order, and good understanding in human society.

Similar considerations apply to the *crimes created by law*. Smuggling may
serve as an instance. Undoubtedly there are smugglers who would not steal;
and their apology is that they are but exercising the rights of ownership
upon their own property. But the public must have property, else its
community is dissolved; government must be able to avail itself of that
property, else its functions are suspended. Men need to be taught that the
rights of the state are inseparable from those of individuals, and no less
sacred, and the laws that protect the revenue are among the most efficient
means of teaching this lesson. Their only defect is that they attach less
ignominy to frauds upon the revenue than to other modes of theft, and thus
fail to declare the whole truth, that there is no moral difference between
him who robs the public and him who robs any one of its individual

                               Section IV.

Sources Of Knowledge. 3. Christianity.

*Religion*, in its relation to ethics, may be regarded both as *a source
of knowledge*, and as supplying motives for the performance of duty. We
are now concerned with it in the former aspect; and it will be sufficient
for our present purpose to ascertain how much *Christianity* adds to our
knowledge of the fitnesses that underlie all questions of right and duty.
We by no means undervalue the beneficent ministry of natural religion in
the department of ethics; but the most sceptical admit that Christianity
includes all of natural religion, while its disciples claim that it not
only teaches natural religion with a certainty, precision, and authority
which else were wanting, but imparts a larger and profounder knowledge of
God and the universe than is within the scope of man’s unaided reason.

*Christianity covers the entire field of human duty*, and reveals many
fitnesses, recognized when seen, but discovered by few or none
independently of the teachings and example of its Founder; while it gives
the emphasis and sanction of a Divine revelation to many other fitnesses,
easily discoverable, but liable to be overlooked and neglected.

In defining *the relations of the individual human soul to God*,
Christianity opens to our view a department of duty paramount to all
others in importance and interest. His fatherly love and care, his moral
government and discipline, his retributive providence, define with
unmistakable distinctness certain corresponding modes, in part, of outward
action, and in still greater part, of action in that inward realm of
thought whence the outward life receives its direction and impulse.

*The brotherhood of the whole human race*, also, reveals obligations which
would exist on no other ground; and for the clear and self-evidencing
statement of this truth we are indebted solely to Christianity. The
visible differences of race, color, culture, religion, and customs, are in
themselves dissociating influences. Universal charity is impossible while
these differences occupy the foreground. Slavery was a natural and
congenial institution under Pagan auspices; nor have we in all ancient
extra-Christian literature, unless it be in Seneca (in whom such
sentiments may have had indirectly(3) a Christian origin), a single
expression of a fellowship broad enough to embrace all diversities of
condition, much less, of race. But the Christian, so far as he consents to
receive the obvious and undoubted import of Christ’s mission and
teachings, must regard all men as, in nature, in the paternal care of the
Divine Providence, in religious privileges, rights, and capacities, on an
equal footing. With this view, he cannot but perceive the fitness, and
therefore the obligation, of many forms of social duty, of enlarged
beneficence, of unlimited philanthropy, which on any restricted theory of
human brotherhood would be neither fitting nor reasonable.

*The immortality of the soul*, in the next place, casts a light at once
broad and penetrating upon and into every department of duty; for it is
obvious, without detailed statement, that the fitnesses, needs, and
obligations of a terrestrial being of brief duration, and those of a being
in the nursery and first stage of an endless existence, are very wide
apart,—that the latter may find it fitting, and therefore may deem it
right, to do, seek, shun, omit, endure, resign, many things which to the
former are very properly matters of indifference. Immortality was, in a
certain sense, believed before the advent of Christ, but not with
sufficient definiteness and assurance to occupy a prominent place in any
ethical system, or to furnish the point of view from which all things in
the earthly life were to be regarded. Indeed, some of the most virtuous of
the ancients, among others Epictetus, than whom there was no better man,
expressly denied the life after death, and, of course, could have had no
conception of the aspects of human and earthly affairs as seen in the
light of eternity.

Christianity makes yet another contribution to ethical knowledge in *the
person and character of its Founder*, exhibiting in him the very fitnesses
it prescribes, showing us, as it could not in mere precept, the
proportions and harmonies of the virtues, and manifesting the unapproached
beauty and majesty of the gentler virtues,(4) which in pre-Christian ages
were sometimes made secondary, sometimes repudiated with contempt and
derision. We cannot overestimate the importance of this teaching by
example. The instances are very numerous, in which the fitness of a
specific mode of conduct can be tested only by experiment; and Jesus
Christ tried successfully several experiments in morals that had not been
tried before within the memory of man, and evinced, in his own person and
by the success of his religion, the superior worth and efficacy of
qualities which had not previously borne the name of virtues.

Christianity still further enlarges our ethical knowledge by declaring the
*universality of moral laws*. There are many cases, in which it might seem
to us not only expedient, but even right, to set aside some principle
acknowledged to be valid in the greater number of instances, to violate
justice or truth for some urgent claim of charity, or to consent to the
performance of a little evil for the accomplishment of a great good. But
in all such cases Christianity interposes its peremptory precepts,
assuring us on authority which the Christian regards as supreme and
infallible, that there are no exceptions or qualifications to any rule of
right; that the moral law, in all its parts, is of inalienable obligation,
and that the greatest good cannot but be the ultimate result of inflexible

That *Christianity gives a fuller knowledge of the right* than can be
attained independently of its teachings, is shown by the review of all
extra-Christian ethical systems. There is not one of these which does not
confessedly omit essential portions of the right, and hardly one which
does not sanction dispositions and modes of conduct confessedly wrong and
evil; while even those who disclaim Christianity as a Divine revelation,
fail to detect like omissions and blemishes in the ethics of the New
Testament. Thus, though there is hardly a precept of Jesus Christ, the
like of which cannot be found in the ethical writings of Greece, China,
India, or Persia, the faultlessness and completeness of his teachings give
them a position by themselves, and are among the strongest internal
evidences of their divinity. They are also distinguished from the ethical
systems of other teachers by their positiveness. Others say, “Thou shalt
not;” Jesus Christ says, “Thou shalt.” They forbid and prohibit; He
commands. They prescribe abstinence from evil; He, a constant approach to
perfection. Buddhism is, in our time, often referred to as occupying a
higher plane than Christianity; but its precepts are all negative, its
virtues are negative, and its disciple is deemed most nearly perfect, when
in body, mind, and soul he has made himself utterly quiescent and inert.
Christianity, on the other hand, enjoins the unresting activity of all the
powers and faculties in pursuit of the highest ends.

                               Chapter VI.


Of the things that are fitting and right, there are some which, though
they may be described in general terms, cannot be defined and limited with
entire accuracy; there are others which are *so obvious and manifest, or
so easily ascertained*, that, in precise form and measure, *they may be
claimed* by those to whom they are due, *and required* of those from whom
they are due. These last are rights, and the duties which result from them
are *obligations*. Thus it is right that a poor man should be relieved;
and it is my duty, so far as I can, to relieve the poor. But this or that
individual poor man cannot claim that it is my duty rather than that of my
neighbor to minister to his needs, or that I am bound to give him what I
might otherwise give to his equally needy neighbor. He has no specific
right to any portion of my money or goods; I have no specific obligation
to give him anything. But if a man has lent me money, he has a right to as
much of my money or goods as will repay him with interest; and I am under
an obligation thus to repay him. Again, it is right that in the public
highway there should be, among those who make it their thoroughfare,
mutual accommodation, courtesy, and kindness; but no one man can prescribe
the precise distance within which he shall not be approached, or the
precise amount of pressure which may be allowable to his abutters in a
crowd. Nor yet can the individual citizen occupy the street in such a way
as to obstruct those who make use of it. He has no exclusive rights in the
street; nor are others under obligation to yield to him any peculiar
privileges. But he has a right to exclude whom he will from his own
garden, and to occupy it in whatever way may please him best; and his
fellow-citizens are under obligation to keep their feet from his alleys
and flower-beds, their hands from his fruit, and to abstain from all acts
that may annoy or injure him in the use and enjoyment of his garden.

*Rights*—with the corresponding obligations—might be divided into
*natural* and *legal*. But the division is nominal rather than real; for,
in the first place, there are no natural rights, capable of being defined,
which are not in civilized countries under the sanction and protection of
law; secondly, it is an open question whether some generally recognized
rights—as, for instance, that of property—exist independently of law; and,
thirdly, it may be maintained, on the other hand, that law is powerless to
create, competent only to declare rights.

One chief agency of law as to rights is exercised in limiting *natural
rights*. Considered simply in his relation to outward nature, a man has a
manifest right to whatever he can make tributary to his enjoyment or
well-being. But his fellow-men have the same right. If, then, there be a
restricted supply of what he and they may claim by equal right, the
alternative is, on the one hand, usurpation or perpetual strife, or, on
the other, an adjustment by which each shall yield a part of what he might
claim were there no fellow-claimant, and thus each shall have his
proportion of what belongs equally to all. To make this adjustment
equitably is the province of law. The problem which it attempts to solve
is, How may each individual citizen secure the fullest amount of liberty
and of material well-being, consistent with the admitted or established
rights of others? Under republican institutions, this problem presents
itself in the simplest form, society being in principle an equal
partnership, in which no one man can claim a larger dividend than another.
But where birth or condition confers certain peculiar rights, the problem
must be so modified, that the rights conceded to the common citizens shall
not interfere with these inherited or vested rights. In either case, the
rights of each member of the community are bounded only by the
conterminous rights of others. Obligations correspond to rights. Each
member of the community is under obligation, always to refrain from
encroachment on the rights of others, and in many cases to aid in securing
or defending those rights, he on like occasions and in similar ways having
his own rights protected by others.

We will consider separately *rights appertaining to the person, to
property, and to reputation*.

1. *Rights appertaining to the person.* The most essential of these is the
right to life, on which of course all else that can be enjoyed is
contingent. This right is invaded, not only by direct violence, but by
whatever may impair or endanger health. The corresponding obligation of
the individual member of society is to refrain from all acts, employments,
or recreations that may imperil life or health, and of society
collectively, to furnish a police-force adequate to the protection of its
members, to forbid and punish all crimes of violence, to enact and
maintain proper sanitary regulations, and to suppress such nuisances as
may be not only annoying, but harmful.

But the citizen is entitled to protection, only so long as he refrains
from acts by which he puts other lives in peril. If he assault another man
with a deadly weapon, and his own life be taken in the encounter, the
slayer has violated no right, nay, so far as moral considerations are
concerned, he is not even the slayer; for the man who wrongfully puts
himself in a position in which another life can be protected only at the
peril of his own, if his own be forfeited, has virtually committed
suicide. Nor is the case materially altered, if a man in performing an
unlawful act puts himself in a position in which he may be reasonably
supposed to intend violence. Thus, while both law and conscience would
condemn me if I killed a thief in broad daylight, in order to protect my
property,—if a burglar enter my house by night with no intention of
violence, and yet in the surprise and darkness of the hour I have reason
to suppose my life and the lives of my family in danger from him, the law
regards my slaying of such a person as justifiable homicide; and my
conscience would acquit me in defending the right to life appertaining to
my family and myself, against one whose intention or willingness to commit
violence was to be reasonably inferred from his own unlawful act.

Society, through the agency of law, in some cases and directions limits
the right of the individual citizen to life, and this *to the contingent
benefit of each,—to the absolute benefit of all*. So long as men are less
than perfect in character and condition, there must of necessity be some
sacrifice of life; but this sacrifice may be reduced to its _minimum_ by
judicious legislation. Now, if without such legislation the percentage of
deaths would be numerically much higher than under well-framed laws, the
lives sacrificed under these laws are simply cases in which the right of
the individual is made to yield to the paramount rights of the community.
Thus, there can be no doubt, that contagious disease of the most malignant
type could, in many cases, be more successfully treated at the homes of
the patients than in public hospitals. But if by the removal of patients
to hospitals the number of cases may be greatly diminished, and the
contagion speedily arrested, this removal is the right of the
community,—yet not under circumstances of needless privation and hardship,
not without the best appliances of comfort, care, and skill which money
can procure; for the public can be justified in the exercise of such a
right, only by the extension of the most generous offices of humanity to
those who are imperilled for the public good.

It is only on similar grounds that the *death-penalty for murder* can be
justified. The life of the very worst of men should be sacrificed only for
the preservation of life; for if it be unsafe to leave them at liberty,
they may be kept under restraint and duress, without being wholly cut off
from the means of enjoyment and improvement. The primeval custom of the
earlier nations required the nearest kinsman of the murdered man to kill
the murderer with his own hand, and in so doing to shed his blood, which
was believed to have a mysterious efficacy in expiating the crime. This
form of revenge was greatly checked and restricted by the institutions of
Moses; it fell into disuse among the Jews, with their growth in
civilization; and was certainly included in the entire repeal of the law
of retaliation by Jesus Christ.(5)

But if with the dangerous classes of men the dread of capital punishment
is a dissuasive from crimes of violence, so that the number of murders is
less, and the lives of peaceable citizens are safer, than were murder
liable to some milder penalty, then it is the undoubted right of the
public to confiscate the murderer’s right to life, and thus to sacrifice
the smaller number of comparatively worthless lives for the security of
the larger number of lives that may be valuable to the community. Or again
if, by the profligate use of the pardoning power, the murderer sentenced
to perpetual imprisonment will probably be let loose upon society
unreformed, and with passions which may lead to the repetition of his
crime, it is immeasurably more fitting that he be killed, than that he be
preserved to do farther mischief. Yet again, if there be in the
death-penalty for murder an educational force,—if by means of it each new
generation is trained in the greater reverence for human life, and the
greater detestation and horror of the crime by which it is destroyed,—then
is capital punishment to be retained as a means of preserving an
incalculably greater number of lives than it sacrifices. On these grounds,
though in opposition to early and strong conviction, we are constrained to
express the belief that, in our time and country, the capital punishment
of the murderer is needed for the security of the public, and is justified
as a life-saving measure.

In *enforced military service*, also, legal authority exposes the lives of
a portion of the citizens for the security of the greater number. It is an
unquestionable truth that, in its moral affinities, war is generated by
evil, is allied to numberless forms of evil, and has a countless progeny
of evil. But it is equally true that war will recur at not unfrequent
intervals, so long as the moral evils from which it springs remain
unreformed. Such are the complications of international affairs, that the
most righteous and pacific policy may not always shield a people from
hostile aggressions; while insurrection, sedition, and civil war may
result not only from governmental oppression, but from the most salutary
measures of reform and progress. In such cases, self-defence on the part
of the nation or the government assailed, is a right and an obligation,
due even in the interest of human life, and still more, in behalf of
interests more precious than life. Moreover, even in a war of unprovoked
aggression, the aggressive nation does not forfeit the right of
self-defence by the unprincipled ambition of its rulers, and, war once
declared, its vigorous pursuit may be the only mode of averting disaster
or ruin. Thus war, though always involving atrocious wrong on the part of
its promoters and abettors, becomes to the nations involved in it a
necessity for which they are compelled to provide.

This provision may, in some cases, be made by voluntary enlistment; but in
most civilized countries, it has been found necessary to fill and recruit
the army by conscription, thus forcibly endangering the lives of a portion
of the citizens, in order to avert from the soil and the homes of the
people at large the worse calamities of invasion, devastation, and
conquest. So far as this is necessary, it is undoubtedly right, and the
lives thus sacrificed are justly due to the safety and well-being of the
whole people. But in making this admission, we would say, without
abatement or qualification, that war is essentially inhuman, barbarous,
and opposed to and by the principles and spirit of Christianity, and that
should the world ever be thoroughly Christianized, the ages when war was
possible, will be looked back upon with the same horror with which we now
regard cannibalism.

Associated with the right to life, and essential to its full enjoyment, is
the *right to liberty*. This includes the right to direct one’s own
employments and recreations, to divide and use his time as may seem to him
good, to go where he pleases, to bestow his vote or his influence in
public affairs as he thinks best, and to express his own opinions orally,
in writing, or through the press, without hindrance or molestation. These
several rights belong equally to all; but as they cannot be exercised in
full without mutual interference and annoyance, the common sense of
mankind, uttering itself through law, permits each individual to enjoy
them only so far as he can consistently with the freedom, comfort, and
well-being of his fellow-citizens.

*Slavery* is so nearly extirpated from Christendom, that it is superfluous
to enter into the controversy, which a few years ago no treatise on Moral
Philosophy could have evaded. It was defended only by patent sophistry,
and its advocates argued from the fact to the right, inventing the latter
to sustain the former.

*Personal liberty is legally and rightfully restricted* in the case of
minors, on the ground of their *immature* judgment and discretion, of
their natural state of dependence on parents, and of their usual abode
under the parental roof. The age of mature discretion varies very widely,
not only in different races, but among different individuals of the same
race, as does also the period of emancipation from the controlling
influence of parents, and of an independent and self-sustaining condition
in life. But, as it is impossible for government to institute special
inquiries in the case of each individual, and as, were this possible,
there would be indefinite room for favoritism and invidious distinctions,
there is an intrinsic fitness in fixing an average age at which parental
or _quasi_-parental tutelage shall cease, and after which the man shall
have full and sole responsibility for his own acts. It is perfectly
obvious that the liberty of the insane and feeble-minded ought to be
restricted so far as is necessary for their own safety and for that of
others. There is, also, in most communities, a provision by which
notorious spendthrifts may be put under guardianship, and thus restrained
in what might be claimed as their rightful disposal of their own property.
This may be justified on the ground that, by persistent wastefulness, they
may throw upon the public the charge of their own support and that of
their families.

*Imprisonment* is, on the part of society, a measure, not of revenge, but
of self-defence. The design of this mode of punishment is, first, to
prevent the speedy repetition of the crime on the part of the person
punished; secondly, so to work, either upon his moral nature by
confinement, labor, and instruction, or at the worst, on his fears, by the
dread of repeated and longer restraint, that he may abstain from crime in
future; and lastly, to deter those who might otherwise be tempted to crime
from exposing themselves to its penal consequences. As regards the
prisoner, he has justly forfeited the right to liberty by employing it in
aggression on the rights of others.

As regards acts not in themselves wrong, the freedom of the individual is
rightfully restrained, when it would interfere with the health, comfort,
or lawful pursuits of his neighbors. Thus no man has the right, either
legal or moral, to establish, in an inhabited vicinage, a trade or
manufacture which confessedly poisons the air or the water in his
neighborhood; nor has one a moral right (even if there are technical
difficulties in the way of declaring his calling a nuisance), to annoy his
neighbors by an avocation grossly offensive or intolerably noisy. It is on
this ground alone that legislation with reference to the Lord’s day can be
justified. Christians have no right to impose upon Jews, Pagans, or
infidels, entire cessation of labor, business, or recreation on Sunday,
and the attempt at coercive measures of this kind can only react to the
damage of the cause in which they are instituted. But if the majority of
the people believe it their duty to observe the first day of the week as a
day of rest and devotion, they have a right to be protected in its
observance by the suppression of such kinds, degrees, and displays of
labor and recreation as would essentially interfere with their employment
of the day for its sacred uses.

2. *The right to property* is an inevitable corollary from the right to
liberty; for this implies freedom to labor at one’s will, and to what
purpose can a man labor, unless he can make the fruit of his labor his
own? All property, except land, has been created by labor. Except where
slavery is legalized, it is admitted that the laborer owns the value he
creates. If it be an article made or produced wholly by himself, it is his
to keep, to use, to give, or to sell. If his labor be bestowed on
materials not his own, or if he be one of a body of workmen, he is
entitled to a fair equivalent for the labor he contributes.

*Property in land*, no doubt, originated in labor. A man was deemed the
proprietor of so much ground as he tilled. In a sparse population there
could have been no danger of mutual interference; and in every country,
governments must have been instituted before there was a sufficiently
close occupation of the soil to occasion collisions and conflicts among
the occupants. The governments of the early ages, in general, confirmed
the titles founded in productive occupancy, and treated the unoccupied
land as the property of the state, either to be held in common, to be
ceded to individual owners in reward of loyalty or services, or to be sold
on the public account.

It is manifest that the *security of property is essential to civilization
and progress*. Men would labor only for the needs of the day, if they
could not retain and enjoy the fruits of their labor; nor would they be at
pains to invent or actualize industrial improvements of any kind, if they
had no permanent interest in the results of such improvements. Then, too,
if there were no protection for property, there could be no accumulation
of capital, and without capital there could be no enterprise, no combined
industries, no expenditure in faith of a remote, yet certain profit. Nor
yet can the ends of a progressive civilization be answered by a community
of goods and gains. Wherever this experiment has been tried, it has been
attended by a decline of industrial energy and capacity; and where there
has not been absolute failure, there have been apathy, stupidity, and a
decreasing standard of intelligence. In fine, there is in man’s bodily and
mental powers a certain _vis inertiæ_, which can be efficiently aroused
only by the stimulus of personal interest in the results of industry,
ingenuity, and prudence.

The right of property implies *the right of the owner, while he lives*, to
hold, enjoy, or dispose of his possessions in such way as may please him.
But his ownership necessarily ceases at death; and what was his becomes
*rightfully the property of the public*. Yet in all civilized countries,
it has been deemed fitting that the owner should have the liberty—with
certain restrictions—of dictating the disposal of his property after his
death, and also that, unless alienated by his will (and in some countries
his will notwithstanding), his property should pass to his family or his
nearest kindred. It is believed that it would discourage industry and
enfeeble enterprise were their earnings to be treated as public property
on the death of the owner; and that, on the other hand, men are most
surely trained to and preserved in habits of diligence and thrift, either
by the power of directing the disposal of their property after death, or
by the certainty that they can thereby benefit those whom they hold in the
dearest regard. Laws with reference to wills and to the succession of
estates are not, then, limitations of the rights of private property, but
a directory as to what is deemed the best mode of disposing of such
property as from time to time accrues to the public.

*The law limits the right of property* by appropriating to public uses
such portions of it as are needed for the maintenance, convenience, and
well-being of the body politic. This is done, in the first place, by
taxation, which—in order to be just—must be equitable in its mode of
assessment, and not excessive in amount. As to the modes of assessment, it
is obvious that a system which lightens the burden upon the rich, and thus
presses the more heavily on the poor (as would be the case were a revenue
raised on the necessaries of life, while luxuries were left free), cannot
be justified. On the other hand, it may be maintained that the rate of
taxation might fairly increase with the amount of property; for a very
large proportion of the machinery of government is designed for the
protection of property, and the more property an individual has, the less
capable is he of protecting his various interests by his own personal
care, and the more is he in need of well-devised and faithfully executed
laws. Taxation excessive in amount is simply legalized theft. Sinecures,
supernumerary offices, needless and costly formalities in the transaction
of public business, journeys and festivities at the public charge,
buildings designed for ostentation rather than for use, have been so long
tolerated in the municipal, state, and national administrations, that they
may seem inseparable from our system of government; but they imply gross
dishonesty on the part of large numbers of our public servants, and guilty
complicity in it on the part of many more. Under a system of direct
taxation, assessments can be more equitably made, and their expenditure
will be more carefully watched, than in the case of indirect taxation;
while the latter method is more likely to find favor with those who hold
or seek public office, as encouraging a larger freedom of expenditure, and
supporting a larger number of needless functionaries at the public cost.

The law, also, authorizes *the appropriation of specific portions of
property to public uses*, as for streets, roads, aqueducts, and public
grounds, and even in aid of private enterprises in which the community has
a beneficial interest, as of canals, bridges, and railways. This is
necessary, and therefore right. It is obvious that, but for this, the most
essential facilities and improvements might be prevented, or burdened with
unreasonable costs, by the obstinacy or cupidity of individuals. The
conditions under which such use of private property is justified are, that
the improvement proposed be for the general good, that a fair compensation
be given for the property taken, and that as to both these points, in case
of a difference of opinion, the ultimate appeal shall be to an impartial
tribunal or arbitration.

3. *The right to reputation.* Every man has a right to the reputation he
deserves, and is under obligation to respect that right in every other
man. This obligation is violated, not only by the fabrication of slander,
but equally by its repetition, unless the person who repeats it knows it
to be true, and also by silence and seeming acquiescence in an injurious
report, if one knows or believes it to be false. But has a man a right to
a better reputation than he deserves? Certainly not, in a moral point of
view; and if men could be generally known to be what they are, few would
fail to become what they would wish to seem. Yet the law admits the truth
of a slanderous charge in justification of the slanderer, only when it can
be shown that the knowledge of the truth is for the public benefit. There
are good reasons for this attitude of the law, without reference to any
supposed rights of the justly accused party. There is, in many instances,
room for a reasonable doubt as to evil reports that seem authentic, and in
many more instances there may be extenuating circumstances which form a
part of the case, though almost never, of the report. Then, too, the
family and kindred of the person defamed may incur, through true, yet
useless reports to his discredit, shame, annoyance, and damage, which they
do not merit. Evil reports, also, even if true, disturb the peace of the
community, and often provoke violent retaliation. The wanton circulation
of them, therefore, if a luxury to him who gives them currency, is a
luxury indulged at the expense of the public, and he ought to be held
liable for all that it may cost. Finally, and above all, the slanderer
becomes a nuisance to the community, not only by his reports of real or
imagined wrong and evil, but by the degradation of his own character,
which can hardly remain above the level of his social intercourse.

By the law, defamation and libel are, very justly, liable both to
*criminal prosecution*, as offences against the public, and to *action for
damages* by civil process, on the obvious ground that the injury of a
man’s character tends to impair his success in business, his pecuniary
credit, and his comfortable enjoyment of his property.

                               Chapter VII.


The appetites, desires, and affections are, as has been said, the
*proximate motives* of action. The perception of expediency and the sense
of right act, not independently of these motives, but upon them and
through them, checking some, stimulating others. Thus they, both, restrain
the appetites, the former, so far as prudence requires; the latter, in
subserviency to the more noble elements of character. The former directs
the desires toward worthy, but earthly objects; the latter works most
efficiently through the benevolent affections, as exercised toward God and

Exterior motives are of a secondary order, acting not directly upon the
will, but influencing it indirectly, through the springs of action, or
through the principles which direct and govern them.

*The action of exterior motives* takes place in three different ways. 1.
When they are in harmony with any predominant appetite, desire, or
affection, they at once intensify it, and prompt acts by which it may be
gratified. Thus, for instance, a sumptuously spread table gives the
epicure a keener appetite, and invites him to its free indulgence. The
opportunity of a potentially lucrative, though hazardous investment,
excites the cupidity of the man who prizes money above all things else,
and tempts him to incur the doubtful risk. The presence of the object of
love or hatred adds strength to the affection, and induces expressions or
acts of kindness or malevolence. 2. An exterior motive opposed to the
predominant spring of action often starts that spring into vigorous and
decisive activity, and makes it thenceforth stronger and more imperative.
It is thus that remonstrances, obstacles, and interposing difficulties not
infrequently render sensual passion more rabid; while temptation, by the
acts of resistance which it elicits, nourishes the virtue it assails. 3.
An exterior motive may have a sufficient stress and cogency to call forth
into energetic action some appetite, desire, or affection previously
dormant or feeble, thus to repress the activity of those which before held
sway, and so to produce a fundamental change in the character. In this way
the sudden presentation of vice, in attractive forms, may give paramount
sway to passions which had previously shown no signs of mastery; and, in
like manner, a signal experience of peril, calamity, deliverance, or
unexpected joy may call forth the religious affections, and invest them
with enduring supremacy over a soul previously surrendered to appetite,
inferior desires, or meaner loves.

*An undue influence* in the formation or change of character *is often
ascribed to exterior motives.* They are oftener the consequence than the
cause of character. Men, in general, exercise more power over their
surroundings, than their surroundings over them. A very large proportion
of the circumstances which seem to have a decisive influence upon us, are
of our own choice, and we might—had we so willed—have chosen their
opposites. A virtuous person seldom finds it necessary to breathe a
vicious atmosphere. A willingness to be tempted is commonly the antecedent
condition to one’s being led into temptation. Sympathy, example, and
social influences are second in their power, whether for good or for evil,
to no other class of exterior motives; and there are few who cannot choose
their own society, and who do not choose it in accordance with their
elective affinities. It is true, indeed, that the choice of companions of
doubtful virtue is often the first outward sign of vicious proclivities;
while a tenacious adherence to the society of the most worthy not
infrequently precedes any very conspicuous development of personal
excellence; but in either case the choice of friends indicates the
predominant springs of action, and the direction in which the character
has begun to grow. So far then is man from being under the irresistible
control of motives from without, that these motives are in great part the
results and the tokens of his own voluntary agency.

Christianity justly claims preëminence, not only as a source of knowledge
as to the right, but equally as presenting the most influential and
persistent motives to right conduct. These motives we have in its
endearing and winning manifestation of the Divine fatherhood by Jesus
Christ; in his own sacrifice, death, and undying love for man; in the
assurance of forgiveness for past wrongs and omissions, without which
there could be little courage for future well-doing; in the promise of
Divine aid in every right purpose and worthy endeavor; in the certainty of
a righteous retribution in the life to come; and in institutions and
observances designed and adapted to perpetuate the memory of the salient
facts, and to *renew* at frequent intervals the recognition of the
essential truths, which give the religion its name and character. The
desires and affections, stimulated and directed by these motives, are
incapable of being perverted to evil, while desires with lower aims and
affections for inferior objects are always liable to be thus perverted.
These religious motives, too, resting on the Infinite and the Eternal, are
of inexhaustible power; if felt at all, they must of necessity be felt
more strongly than all other motives; and they cannot fail to be adequate
to any stress of need, temptation, or trial.

                                * * * * *

*Passion* implies a _passive_ state,—a condition in which the will yields
without resistance to some dominant appetite, desire, or affection, under
whose imperious reign reason is silenced, considerations of expediency and
of right suppressed, and exterior counteracting motives neutralized. It
resembles insanity in the degree in which the actions induced by it are
the results of unreasoning impulse, and in the unreal and distorted views
which it presents of persons, objects, and events. It differs from
insanity, mainly in its being a self-induced madness, for which, as for
drunkenness, the sufferer is morally accountable, and in yielding to
which, as in drunkenness, he, by suffering his will to pass beyond the
control of reason, makes himself responsible, both legally and morally,
for whatever crimes or wrongs he commits in this state of mental

*There is no appetite, desire, or affection which may not become a
passion*, and there is no passion which does not impair the sense of
right, and interfere with the discharge of duty. The appetites, the lower
desires, the malevolent affections, and, not infrequently, love, when they
become passions, have their issues in vice and crime. The nobler desires
and affections when made passions, may not lead to positive evil, but can
hardly fail to derange the fitting order of life, and to result in the
dereliction of some of its essential duties. Thus, the passion for
knowledge may render one indifferent to his social and religious
obligations. Philanthropy, when a passion, overlooks nearer for more
remote claims of duty, and is very prone to omit self-discipline and
self-culture in its zeal for world-embracing charities. Even the religious
affections, when they assume the character of passions, either, on the one
hand, are kindled into wild fanaticism, or, on the other, lapse into a
self-absorbed quietism, which forgets outside duties in the luxury of
devout contemplation; and though either of these is to be immeasurably
preferred to indifference, they both are as immeasurably inferior to that
piety, equally fervent and rational, which neglects neither man for God,
nor God for man, and which remains mindful of all human and earthly
relations, fitnesses, and duties, while at the same time it retains its
hold of faith, hope, and habitual communion, on the higher life.

                                * * * * *

*Habit* also involves the suspension of reason and motive in the
performance of individual acts; but it differs from passion in that its
acts were in the beginning prompted by reason and motive. Indeed, it may
be plausibly maintained that in each habitual act there is a virtual
remembrance—a recollection too transient to be itself remembered—of the
reasoning or motive which induced the first act of the series. In some
cases the habitual act is performed, as it is said, unconsciously,
certainly with a consciousness so evanescent as to leave no trace of
itself. In other cases the act is performed consciously, but as by a felt
necessity, in consequence of an uneasy sensation—analogous to hunger and
thirst—which can be allayed in this way only. Under this last head we may
class, in the first place, habits of criminal indulgence, including the
indulgence of morbid and depraved appetite; secondly, many of those
morally indifferent habits, which constitute a large portion of a regular
and systematic life; and thirdly, habits of virtuous conduct, of industry,
of punctuality, of charity.

*Habit bears a most momentous part in the formation and growth of
character*, whether for evil or for good. It is in the easy and rapid
formation of habit that lies the imminent peril of single acts of vicious
indulgence. The first act is performed with the determination that it
shall be the last of its kind. But of all examples one’s own is that which
he is most prone to follow, and of all bad examples one’s own is the most
dangerous. The precedent once established, there is the strongest
temptation to repeat it, still with a conscious power of self-control, and
with the resolution to limit the degree and to arrest the course of
indulgence, so as to evade the ultimate disgrace and ruin to which it
tends. But before the pre-determined limit is reached, the indulgence has
become a habit; its suspension is painful; its continuance or renewal
seems essential to comfortable existence; and even in those ultimate
stages when its very pleasure has lapsed into satiety, and then into
wretchedness, its discontinuance threatens still greater wretchedness,
because the craving is even more intense when the enjoyment has ceased.

*The beneficent agency of habit no less deserves emphatic notice.* Its
office in practical morality is analogous to that of labor-saving
inventions in the various departments of industry. A machine by which ten
men can do the work that has been done by thirty, disengages the twenty
for new modes of productive labor, and thus augments the products of
industry and the comfort of the community. A good habit is a labor-saving
instrument. The cultivating of any specific virtue to such a degree that
it shall become an inseparable and enduring element of the character
demands, at the outset, vigilance, self-discipline, and, not infrequently,
strenuous effort. But when the exercise of that virtue has become
habitual, and therefore natural, easy, and essential to one’s conscious
well-being, it ceases to task the energies; it no longer requires constant
watchfulness; its occasions are met spontaneously by the appropriate
dispositions and acts. The powers which have been employed in its culture
are thus set free for the acquisition of yet other virtues, and the
formation of other good habits. Herein lies the secret of progressive
goodness, of an ever nearer approach to a perfect standard of character.
The primal virtues are first made habits of the unceasing consciousness
and of the daily life, and the moral power no longer needed for these is
then employed in the cultivation of the finer traits of superior
excellence,—the shaping of the delicate lines, roundings, and proportions,
which constitute "the beauty of holiness," the symmetry and grace of
character that win not only abounding respect and confidence, but
universal admiration and love.

*What has been said of habit, is true not only as to outward acts, but
equally as to wonted directions and currents of thought, study,
reflection, and reverie.* It is mainly through successive stages of habit
that the mind grows in its power of application, research, and invention.
It is thus that the spirit of devotion is trained to ever clearer
realization of sacred truth and a more fervent love and piety. It is thus
that minds of good native capacity lose their apprehensive faculties and
their working power; and thus, also, that moral corruption often, no
doubt, takes place before the evil desires cherished within find the
opportunity of actualizing themselves in a depraved life.

                              Chapter VIII.


*The term virtue* is employed in various senses, which, though they cover
a wide range, are yet very closely allied to one another, and to the
initial conception in which they all have birth. Its primitive
signification, as its structure(6) indicates, is _manliness_. Now what
preëminently distinguishes, not so much the human race from the lower
animals, as the full-grown and strong man from the feebler members of his
own race, is the power of resolute, strenuous, persevering conflict and
resistance. It is the part of a man worthy of the name to maintain his own
position, to hold his ground against all invaders, to show a firm front
against all hostile force, and to prefer death to conquest. All this is
implied in the Greek and Roman idea of virtue, and is included in the
Latin _virtus_, when it is used with reference to military transactions,
so that its earliest meaning was, simply, _military prowess_. But with the
growth of ethical philosophy, and especially with the cultivation by the
Stoics of the sterner and hardier traits of moral excellence, men learned
that there was open to them a more perilous battle-ground, a severer
conflict, and a more glorious victory, than in mere physical warfare,—that
there was a higher type of manliness in self-conquest, in the resistance
and subdual of appetite and passion, in the maintenance of integrity and
purity under intense temptation and amidst vicious surroundings, than in
the proudest achievements of military valour. Virtue thus came to mean,
not moral goodness in itself considered, but goodness militant and

But *words which have a complex signification always tend to slough off a
part of their meaning*; and, especially, words that denote a state or
property, together with its mode of growth or of manifestation, are prone
to drop the latter, even though it may have given them root and form. Thus
the term _virtue_ is often used to denote the qualities that constitute
human excellence, without direct reference to the conflict with evil,
whence it gets its name, and in which those qualities have their surest
growth and most conspicuous manifestation. There is still, however, a
tacit reference to temptation and conflict in our use of the term. Though
we employ it to denote goodness that has stood no very severe test, we use
it only where such a test may be regarded as possible. Though we call a
man virtuous who has been shielded from all corrupt examples and
influences, and has had no inducements to be otherwise than good, we do
not apply the epithet to the little child who cannot by any possibility
have been exposed to temptation. Nor yet would we apply it to the perfect
purity and holiness of the Supreme Being, who “cannot be tempted with

Virtue then, in its more usual sense at the present time, denotes *conduct
in accordance with the right*, or with the fitness of things, on the part
of one who has the power to do otherwise. But in this sense there are few,
if any, perfectly virtuous men. There are, perhaps, none who are equally
sensitive to all that the right requires, and it is often the deficiencies
of a character that give it its reputation for distinguished excellence in
some one form of virtue, the vigilance, self-discipline, and effort which
might have sustained the character in a well-balanced mediocrity being so
concentrated upon some single department of duty as to excite high
admiration and extended praise. There may be a deficient sensitiveness to
some classes of obligations, while yet there is no willing or conscious
violation of the right, and in such cases the character must be regarded
as virtuous. But if in any one department of duty a person is consciously
false to his sense of right, even though in all other respects he conforms
to the right, he cannot be deemed virtuous, nor can there be any good
ground for assurance that he may not, with sufficient inducement, violate
the very obligations which he now holds in the most faithful regard. This
is what is meant by that saying of St. James, “Whosoever shall keep the
whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all,”—not that he who
commits a single offence through inadvertency or sudden temptation, is
thus guilty; but he who willingly and deliberately violates the right as
to matters in which he is the most strongly tempted to wrong and evil,
shows an indifference to the right which will lead him to observe it only
so long and so far as he finds it convenient and easy so to do.

Here we are naturally led to inquire whether there is any essential
*connection between virtue and piety*,—between the faithful discharge of
the common duties of life and loving loyalty toward the Supreme Being. On
this subject extreme opinions have been held, sceptics and unbelievers, on
the one side, Christians with a leaven of antinomianism on the other,
maintaining the entire independence of virtue on piety; while Christians
of the opposite tendency have represented them, in spite of ample evidence
to the contrary, as inseparable. We shall find, on examination, that they
are separable and independent, yet auxiliary each to the other. Virtue is
conduct in accordance with the right, and we have seen that right and
wrong, as moral distinctions, depend not on the Divine nature, will or
law,(8) but on the inherent, necessary conditions of being. The atheist
cannot escape or disown them. Whatever exists—no matter how it came into
being—must needs have its due place, affinities, adaptations, and uses. An
intelligent dweller among the things that are, cannot but know something
of their fitnesses and harmonies, and so far as he acts upon them cannot
but feel the obligation to recognize their fitnesses, and thus to create
or restore their harmonies. Even to the atheist, vice is a violation of
fitnesses which he knows or may know. It is opposed to his conscientious
judgment. He has with regard to it an inevitable sense of wrong. We can,
therefore, conceive of an atheist’s being rigidly virtuous, and that on
principle. Though among the ancient Stoics there were some eminently
devout men, there were others, men of impregnable virtue, whose theology
was too vague and meagre to furnish either ground or nourishment for
piety. While, therefore, in the mutual and reciprocal fitnesses that
pervade the universe we find demonstrative evidence of the being, unity,
and moral perfectness of the Creator, we are constrained to acknowledge
the possibility of these fitnesses being recognized in the conduct of life
by those who do not follow them out to the great truths of theology to
which they point and lead.

But, on the other hand, where there is a clear knowledge of, or an
undoubting belief in the being and providence of God, and especially for
persons who receive Christianity as a revelation of the truth, though, as
an affection, piety is independent of virtue, the duties of piety are an
essential part of virtue. If God is, we stand in definable relations to
Him, and those relations are made definite through Christianity. Those
relations have their fitnesses, and we see not how he can be a thoroughly
virtuous man, who, discerning these fitnesses with the understanding,
fails to recognize them in conduct. Conscience can take cognizance only of
the fitnesses which the individual man knows or believes; but it does take
cognizance of all the fitnesses which he knows or believes. Virtue may
coexist with a very low standard of emotional piety; but it cannot
coexist, in one who believes the truths of religion, with blasphemy,
irreverence, or the conscious violation or neglect of religious
obligations. He who is willingly false to his relations with the Supreme
Being, needs only adequate temptation to make him false to his human
relations, and to the fitnesses of his daily life. Moreover, while, as we
have said, virtue may exist where there is but little emotional piety,
virtue can hardly fail to cherish piety. Loyalty of conduct deepens
loyalty of spirit; obedience nourishes love; he who faithfully does the
will of God can hardly fail to become worshipful and devout; and while men
are more frequently led by emotional piety to virtue, there can be no
doubt that with many the process is reversed, and virtue leads to
emotional piety. Then again, we have seen that religion supplies the most
efficient of all motives to a virtuous life,—motives adequate to a stress
of temptation and trial which suffices to overpower and neutralize all
inferior motives.

                                * * * * *

Virtue is one and indivisible in its principle and essence, yet *in its
external manifestations presenting widely different aspects*, and
eliciting a corresponding diversity in specific traits of character. Thus,
though intrinsic fitness be equally the rule of conduct at a
pleasure-party and by a pauper’s bed-side, the conduct of the virtuous man
will be widely different on these two occasions; and not only so, but with
the same purpose of fidelity to what is fitting and right, his
dispositions, aims, and endeavors on these two occasions will have little
or nothing in common except the one pervading purpose. Hence virtue may
under different forms assume various names, and may thus be broken up into
separate _virtues_. These are many or few, according as we distribute in
smaller or larger groups the occasions for virtuous conduct, or analyze
with greater or less minuteness the sentiments and dispositions from which
it proceeds.

*The cardinal*(*9*)* virtues* are the _hinge_-virtues, those on which the
character _hinges_ or turns, those, the possession of all which, would
constitute a virtuous character, while the absence of any one of them
would justly forfeit for a man the epithet _virtuous_. There are other
less salient and essential qualities—minor virtues—the possession of which
adds to the symmetry, beauty, and efficiency of the character, but which
one may lack, and yet none the less deserve to be regarded as a virtuous
man. Thus, justice is a cardinal virtue; gentleness, one of the lesser

We propose to adopt as a *division of the virtues* one which recognizes
four cardinal virtues, corresponding to four classes under which may be
comprehended all the fitnesses of man’s condition in this world, and the
duties proceeding from them respectively.(10) There are fitnesses and
duties appertaining, first, to one’s own being, nature, capacities, and
needs; secondly, to his relations to his fellow-beings; thirdly, to his
disposition and conduct with reference to external objects and events
beyond his control; and fourthly, to his arrangement, disposal, and use of
objects under his control. It is difficult to find names which in their
common use comprehend severally all the contents of each of these four
divisions; but yet they are all comprised within the broadest significance
of the terms Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Order. Thus employed,
Prudence, or providence, includes all the duties of self-government and
self-culture; Justice denotes all that is due to God and man, embracing
piety and benevolence; Fortitude, which is but a synonyme for strength, is
an appropriate general name for every mode, whether of defiance,
resistance, or endurance, in which man shows himself superior to his
inevitable surroundings; and Order is extended to all subjects in which
the question of duty is a question of time, place, or measure.

*We can conceive of no right feeling, purpose, or action, which does not
come under one of these heads.* It is obvious, too, that these are all
_cardinal_ virtues, not one of which could be wanting or grossly deficient
in a virtuous man. For, in the first place, he who omits were it only the
duties of self-culture, and thus leaves himself ignorant of what he ought
to know, takes upon himself the full burden, blame, and penalty of
whatever wrong he may commit in consequence of needless ignorance;
secondly, he who is willingly unfaithful in any of his relations to God or
man, cannot by any possibility be worthy of approbation; nor, thirdly, can
he be so, who is the slave, not the master, of his surroundings; while,
fourthly, fitnesses of time, place, and measure are so essential to
right-doing that the violation of them renders what else were right,

Moreover, *each of these four virtues*, if genuine and highly developed,
*implies the presence of all the others*. 1. There is a world of wisdom in
the question asked in the Hebrew Scriptures: “Have all the workers of
iniquity no knowledge?” There is in all wrong-doing either ignorance, or
temporary hallucination or blindness, and imprudence is but ignorance or
delusion carried into action. Did we see clearly the certain bearings and
consequences of actions, we should need no stronger dissuasive from all
evil, no more cogent motive to every form of virtue. 2. There is no
conceivable duty which may not be brought under the head of justice,
either to God or to man; for our duties to ourselves are due to God who
has ordained them, and to man whom we are the more able to benefit, the
more diligent we are in self-government and self-improvement. 3. Our
wrong-doing of every kind comes from our yielding to outward things
instead of rising above them; and he who truly lives above the world, can
hardly fail to do all that is right and good in it. 4. Perfect order—the
doing of everything in the right time, place, and measure—would imply the
presence of all the virtues, and would include all their work.

With this explanation we shall use the terms *Prudence*, *Justice*,
*Fortitude*, and *Order* in the titles of the four following chapters, at
the same time claiming the liberty of employing these words, as we shall
find it convenient, in the more restricted sense which they commonly bear.

                               Chapter IX.


Can there be *duties to one’s self*, which are of absolute obligation?
Duties are dues, and they imply two parties,—one who owes them, and one to
whom they are due,—the debtor and the creditor. But the creditor may, at
his will, cancel the debt, and release the debtor. In selfward duties,
then, why may I not, as creditor, release myself as debtor? Why may I
not—so long as I violate no obligation to others—be, at my own pleasure,
idle or industrious, self-indulgent or abstinent, frivolous or serious?
Why, if life seem burdensome to me, may I not relieve myself of the
trouble of living? The answer is, that to every object in the universe
with which I am brought into relation I owe its fit use, and that no being
in the universe, not even the Omnipotent, can absolve me from this
obligation. Now my several powers and faculties, with reference to my
will, are objects on which my volitions take effect, and I am bound to
will their fit uses, and to abstain from thwarting or violating those
uses, on the same ground on which I am bound to observe and reverence the
fitnesses of objects that form no part of my personality. Moreover, this
earthly life is, with reference to my will, an object on which my
volitions may take effect; I learn—if not by unaided reason, from the
Christian revelation—that my life has its fit uses, both in this world and
in preparation for a higher state of being, and that these uses are often
best served by the most painful events and experiences; and I thus find
myself bound to take the utmost care of my life, even when it seems the
least worth caring for.

The *duties due to one’s self* are self-preservation, the attainment of
knowledge, self-control, and moral self-culture.

                                Section I.


The *uses of life*, both to ourselves, and to others through us, suffice,
as we have said, to render its preservation a duty, enjoined upon us by
the law of fitness. This duty is violated not only by suicide—against
which it is useless to reason, for its victims in modern Christendom are
seldom of sound mind—but equally by needless and wanton exposure to peril.
Such exposure is frequently incurred in reckless feats of strength or
daring, sometimes consummated in immediate death, and still oftener in
slower self-destruction by disease. There are, no doubt, occasions when
self-preservation must yield to a higher duty, and humanity has made no
important stage of progress without the free sacrifice of many noble
lives; but because it may be a duty to give life in the cause of truth or
liberty, it by no means follows that one has a right to throw it away for
the gratification of vanity, for a paltry wager, or to win the fame of an
accomplished athlete.

The duty of self-preservation includes, of course, *a reasonable care for
health*, without which the uses of life are essentially restricted and
impaired. Here a just mean must be sought and adhered to. There is, on the
one hand, an excessive care of the body, which, if it does not enfeeble
the mind, distracts it from its true work, and makes the spiritual nature
a mere slave of the material organism. This solicitude is sometimes so
excessive as to defeat its own purpose, by creating imaginary diseases,
and then making them real; and the number is by no means small of those
who have become chronic invalids solely by the pains they have taken not
to be so. On the other hand, there is a carelessness as to dress and diet,
to which the strongest constitution must at length yield; and the intense
consciousness of strength and vigor, which tempts one to deem himself
invulnerable, not infrequently is the cause of life-long infirmity and
disability. Of the cases of prolonged and enfeebling disease, probably
more are the result of avoidable than of unavoidable causes, and if we add
to these the numerous instances in which the failure of health is to be
ascribed to hereditary causes which might have been avoided, or to
defective sanitary arrangements that may be laid to the charge of the
public, we have an enormous amount of serviceable life needlessly wasted
for all purposes of active usefulness; while for the precious examples of
patience, resignation, and cheerful endurance, the infirmities and
sufferings incident to the most favorable sanitary conditions might have
been amply sufficient.

There are, no doubt, such wide diversities of constitution and temperament
that *no specific rules of self-preservation can be laid down*; and as
regards diet, sleep, and exercise, habit may render the most unlike
methods and times equally safe and beneficial. But wholesome food in
moderate quantity, sleep long enough for rest and refreshment, exercise
sufficient to neutralize the torpifying influence of sedentary pursuits,
and these, though not with slavish uniformity, yet with a good degree of
regularity, may be regarded as essential to a sound working condition of
body and mind. The same may be said of the unstinted use of water, which
has happily become a necessity of high civilization, of pure air, the
worth of which as a sanitary agent is practically ignored by the major
part of our community, and of the direct light of heaven, the exclusion of
which from dwellings from motives of economy, while it may spare carpets
and curtains, wilts and depresses their owners. These topics are inserted
in a treatise on ethics, because whatever has a bearing on health, and
thus on the capacity for usefulness selfward and manward which constitutes
the whole value of this earthly life, is of grave moral significance. If
the preservation of life is a duty, then all hygienic precautions and
measures are duties, and as such they should be treated by the individual
moral agent, by parents, guardians, and teachers, and by the public at

*Self-preservation is endangered by poverty.* In the lack or
precariousness of the means of subsistence, the health of the body is
liable to suffer; and even where there is not absolute want, but a
condition straitened in the present and doubtful as to the future, the
mind loses much of its working power, and life is deprived of a large
portion of its utility. Hence the duty of industry and economy on the part
of those dependent on their own exertions. It is not a man’s duty to be
rich, though he who in acquiring wealth takes upon himself its due
obligations and responsibilities, is a public benefactor; but it is every
man’s duty to shun poverty, if he can, and he who makes or keeps himself
poor by his own indolence, thriftlessness, or prodigality, commits a sin
against his own life, which he curtails as to its capacity of good, and
against society, which has a beneficial interest in the fully developed
life of all its members.

                               Section II.

The Attainment Of Knowledge.

Inasmuch as knowledge, real or supposed, must needs precede every act of
the will, and as the adaptation of our actions to our purposes depends on
the accuracy of our knowledge, *it is intrinsically fitting ** that our
cognitive powers should be thoroughly developed and trained, and
diligently employed.* Especially is this fitting, because—as has been
already shown—it is through knowledge alone that we can bring our conduct
into conformity with the absolute right, and there is nothing within the
range of our possible knowledge, which may not become in some way
connected with our agency as moral beings.

It is of prime importance that what we seem to know we know accurately;
and as it is through the senses that we acquire our knowledge, not only of
the outward objects with which we are daily conversant, but of other minds
than our own, *the education of the senses* is an obvious duty. There are
few so prolific sources of social evil, injustice, and misery, as the
falsehood of persons who mean to tell the truth, but who see or hear only
in part, and supply the deficiencies of perception by the imagination. In
the acquisition of knowledge of the highest interest and importance this
same hindrance is one of the most frequent obstacles. The careless eye and
the heedless ear waste for many minds a large portion of the time
ostensibly given to serious pursuits, and render their growth pitifully
slow and scanty as compared with their means of culture. The senses may,
especially in early life, be trained to alertness and precision, so that
they shall carry to the mind true and full reports of what they see and
hear; and it is only by such training that the perceptive faculties can
accomplish the whole work for which they are designed and fitted.

There are, also, interior senses, *apprehensive powers of the mind*, which
equally crave culture, and which depend for their precision and force on
careful education and diligent use. Mere observation, experience, or
study, cannot give knowledge that will be of any avail. One may have a
largely and variously stocked memory, and yet be unable to employ its
contents to his own advantage or to the benefit of others. Indeed, there
are minds that are paralyzed by being overloaded,—by taking in freight
faster than they have room for it. It is only materials which the mind has
made its own, incorporated into its substance, that it can fully utilize.
Knowledge must be acted upon by the understanding, the reason, the
judgment, before it can be transmuted into wisdom, and employed either in
the acquisition of new truth or in the conduct of life. Mental activity,
then, is a duty; for if we are bound to preserve life, by parity of
reason, we are bound to improve its quality and increase its quantity, and
this cannot be done unless the intellectual powers are strengthened by
diligent exercise, as well as nourished by the facts and truths which are
the raw material of wisdom.

The fit *objects of knowledge* vary indefinitely with one’s condition in
life. Things in themselves trivial or evanescent may, under certain
circumstances, claim our careful attention and thorough cognizance. We
ought, on the one hand, to know all we can about matters concerning which
we must speak or act, and, on the other hand, to refrain from voluntarily
speaking or acting in matters of which we are ignorant. Thus our social
relations and our daily intercourse may render it incumbent on us to
obtain for current use a large amount of accurate knowledge which is not
worth our remembering. Then a man’s profession, stated business, or usual
occupation opens a large field of knowledge, with which and with its
allied provinces it is his manifest duty to become conversant to his
utmost ability; for the genuineness and value of his work must be in a
great degree contingent on his intelligence. At the same time, every man
is bound to make his profession worthy of respect; in failing to do so, he
wrongs and injures the members of his profession collectively; and no
calling can obtain respect, if those who pursue it show themselves
uncultivated and ignorant. Thus far, then, should knowledge be extended on
grounds of practical utility. Beyond and above this range, there is an
unlimited realm of truth, the knowledge of which is inestimably precious
for the higher culture of the mind and character. In this realm, of which
only an infinitesimal portion can be conquered during an earthly lifetime,
there is no unfruitful region,—there is no department of nature, of
psychology, or of social science, through which the mind may not be
expanded, exalted, energized, led into more intimate relations with the
Supreme Intelligence, endowed with added power of beneficent agency.
While, therefore, knowledge of things as they are, and of their underlying
principles and laws, so far as we are able to acquire it, is not only a
privilege beyond all price, but an absolute duty, there are no moral
considerations which need direct or limit our choice of the themes of
research or study. These may properly be determined by native or acquired
proclivity, by opportunity, or by considerations of usefulness. Nor, if
the love of truth be formed and cherished, can it of be of any essential
importance whether this or that portion of truth be pursued or neglected
during the brief period of our life in this world; for, at best, what we
leave unattained must immeasurably exceed our attainments, and there is an
eternity before us for what we are compelled to omit here. At the same
time, the unbounded scope and the vast diversity of things knowable and
worthy to be known are adapted to stimulate self-culture, and in that same
proportion to invest human life with a higher dignity, a larger intrinsic
value, and a more enduring influence.

                               Section III.


*A man must be either self-governed, or under a worse government than his
own.* God governs men, only by teaching and helping them to govern
themselves. Good men, if also wise, seek not, even for the highest ends,
to control their fellow-men, but, so far as they can, enable and encourage
them to exercise a due self-control. It is only unwise or bad men who
usurp the government of other wills than their own. But the individual
will is oftener made inefficient by passion, than by direct influence from
other minds. Man, in his normal state, wills either what is expedient or
what is right. Passion suspends, as to its objects, all reference to
expediency and right, even when there is the clearest knowledge of the
tendencies of the acts to which it prompts. Thus the sensualist often
knows that he is committing sure and rapid suicide, yet cannot arrest
himself on the declivity of certain ruin. The man in whom avarice has
become a passion is perfectly aware of the comforts and enjoyments which
he is sacrificing, yet is as little capable of procuring them as if he
were a pauper. Anger and revenge not infrequently force men to crimes
which they know will be no less fatal to themselves than to their victims.
Now if a man will not put and keep himself under the government of
conscience, it concerns him at least to remain under the control of
reason, which, if it do not compel him to do right, will restrain him
within the limits of expediency, and thus will insure for him reputation,
a fair position, and a safe course in life, even though it fail of the
highest and most enduring good.

*Self-control is easily lost*, and is often lost unconsciously. The first
surrender of it is prone to be final and lifelong. Indeed, in many cases,
the passion destined to be dominant has nearly reached the maturity of its
power previously to any outward violation of the expedient or the right.
Where the restraining influences of education and surroundings are strong,
where important interests are at stake, or where conscience has not been
habitually silenced or tampered with, the perilous appetite, desire, or
affection broods long in the thought, and is so largely indulged in
reverie and anticipation, that it becomes imperious and despotic before it
assumes its wonted forms of outward manifestation. Hence, the sudden
infatuation and rapid ruin which we sometimes witness,—the cases in which
there seems but a single step between innocence and deep depravity. In
truth there are many steps; but until they become precipitous, they are
veiled from human sight.

*Self-control*, then, in order to be effective, *must be exercised upon
the thoughts and feelings*, especially upon the imagination, which fills
so largely with its phantasms and day-dreams our else unoccupied hours.
Let these hours be as few as possible; and let them be filled with
thoughts which we would not blush to utter, with plans which we could
actualize with the approving suffrage of all good men. The inward life
which would dread expression and exposure, already puts the outward life
in peril; for passion, thus inwardly nourished and fostered, can hardly
fail to assume sooner or later the control of the conduct and the shaping
of the character. Let the thoughts be well governed, and the life is
emancipated from passion, and under the control of reason and principle.

                               Section IV.

Moral Self-Culture.

It is evident that, *whatever a man’s aims may be, the attainment of them
depends more upon himself than upon any agency that he can employ*. If his
aim be extended influence, his words and acts have simply the force which
his character gives them. If his aim be usefulness, his own personality
measures in part the value of his gifts, and determines entirely the worth
of his services. If his aim be happiness, the more of a man he is, the
larger is his capacity of enjoyment; for as a dog gets more enjoyment out
of life than a zoöphyte, and a man than a dog, so does the fully and
symmetrically developed man exceed in receptivity of happiness him whose
nature is imperfectly or abnormally developed. Now it is through the
thorough training and faithful exercise of his moral faculties and powers
that man is most capable of influence, best fitted for usefulness, and
endowed with the largest capacity for happiness. History shows this. The
men whose lot (if any but our own) we would be willing to assume, have
been, without an exception, good men. If there are in our respective
circles those whose position we deem in every respect enviable, they are
men of preëminent moral excellence. We would not take—could we have it—the
most desirable external position with a damaged character. Probably there
are few who do not regard a virtuous character as so much to be desired,
that in yielding to temptation and falling under the yoke of vicious
habits they still mean to reform and to become what they admire. Old men
who have led profligate lives always bear visible tokens of having
forfeited all the valuable purposes of life, often confess that their
whole past has been a mistake, and not infrequently bear faithful
testimony to the transcendent worth of moral goodness. To remain satisfied
without this is, therefore, a sin against one’s own nature, a sacrifice of
well-being and happiness which no one has a right to make, and which no
prudent man will make.

Self-culture in virtue implies and demands reflection on duty and on the
motives to duty, on one’s own nature, capacities and liabilities, and on
those great themes of thought, which by their amplitude and loftiness
enlarge and exalt the minds that become familiar with them. The mere
tongue-work or hand-*work, of virtue slackens and becomes deteriorated,
when not sustained by profound thought and feeling. Moreover, it is the
mind that acts, and it puts into its action all that it has—and no more—of
moral and spiritual energy, so that the same outward act means more or
less, is of greater or less worth, in proportion to the depth and vigor of
feeling and purpose from which it proceeds. It is thus that religious
devotion nourishes virtue, and that none are so well fitted for the duties
of the earthly life as those who, in their habitual meditation, are the
most intimately conversant with the heavenly life.

In moral self-culture great benefit is derived from example, whether of
the living or the dead. Perhaps the dead are, in this respect, more useful
than the living. In witnessing the worthy deeds and beneficent agency of a
person of superior excellence, the tendency is to an over-exact imitation
of specific acts and methods, which, precisely because they are
spontaneous and fitting in his case, will not be so in the case of his
copyist; while the biography of an eminently good man enlists our sympathy
with his spirit rather than with the details of his life, and stimulates
us to embody the same spirit in widely different forms of duty and
usefulness. Thus the school-master who in Dr. Arnold’s lifetime heard of
his unprecedented success as an educator, would have been tempted to go to
Rugby, to study the system on the ground, and then to adopt, so far as
possible, the very plans which he there saw in successful operation,—plans
which might have been fitted neither to his genius, the traditions of his
school, nor the demands of its patrons. At the same time, the interior of
Rugby School was very little known, the principles of its administration
still less, to persons other than teachers. But Arnold’s biography,
revealing the foundation-principles of his character and his work, raised
up for him a host of imitators of all classes and conditions. Price, who
converted his immense candle-factory near London into a veritable
Christian seminary for mutual improvement in knowledge, virtue, and piety,
professed to owe his impulse to this enterprise solely to the “Life of
Arnold,” and like instances were multiplied in very various professions
throughout the English-speaking world. In fine, example is of service to
us, not in pointing out the precise things to be done, but in exhibiting
the beauty, loveliness, and majesty of moral goodness, the possibility of
exalted moral attainments, and the varied scope for their exercise in
human life. Even he whose example we, as Christians, hold in a reverence
which none other shares, is to be imitated, not by slavishly copying his
specific acts, which, because they were suitable in Judæa in the first
century, are for the most part unfitting in America in the nineteenth
century, but by imbibing his spirit, and then incarnating it in the forms
of active duty and service appropriate to our time and land.

Finally, and obviously, *the practice of virtue* is the most efficient
means of moral self-culture. As the thought uttered or written becomes
indelibly fixed in the mind, so does the principle or sentiment embodied
in action become more intimately and persistently an element of the moral

                                Chapter X.


Justice, in the common use of the word, refers only to such rights and
dues as can be precisely defined, enacted by law, and enforced by legal
authority. Yet we virtually recognize a broader meaning of the word,
whenever we place law and justice in opposition to each other, as when we
speak of an _unjust law_. In this phrase we imply that there is a supreme
and universal justice, of whose requirements human law is but a partial
and imperfect transcript. This justice must embrace all rights and dues of
all beings, human and Divine; and it is in this sense that we may regard
whatever any one being in the universe can fitly claim of another being as
coming under the head of justice. Such, as we have already intimated, is
the sense in which we have used the term in the caption of a chapter which
will embrace piety and benevolence no less than integrity and veracity.

                                Section I.

Duties To God.

While we cannot command our affections, we can so *govern and direct our
thoughts* as to excite the affections which we desire to cherish; and if
certain affections must inevitably result from certain trains or habits of
thought, those affections may be regarded as virtually subject to the
will, and, if right, as duties. It is in this sense that gratitude and
love to God are duties. We cannot contemplate the tokens of his love in
the outward universe, the unnumbered objects which have no other possible
use than to be enjoyed, the benignity of his perpetual providence, the
endowments and capacities of our own being, the immortality of our natural
aspiration and our Christian faith and hope, the forgiveness and
redemption that come to us through Jesus Christ, and the immeasurable
blessings of his mission and gospel, without fervent gratitude to our
infinite Benefactor. Nor can we think of him as the Archetype and Source
of all those traits of spiritual beauty and excellence which, in man, call
forth our reverence, admiration, and affection, without loving in Him
perfect goodness, purity, and mercy. These attributes might, indeed, of
themselves fail to present the Supreme Being to our conceptions as a
cognizable personality, were it not that the personal element is so
clearly manifest in the visible universe and in God’s constant providence.
But there are numerous objects, phenomena, and events in nature and
providence which have—so to speak—a distinctive personal expression, so
that the familiar metaphors of God’s countenance, smile, hand, and voice
do not transcend the literal experience of him who goes through life with
the inward eye and ear always open.

The omnipresence of God makes it the dictate of natural piety to address
Him directly in *thanksgiving and prayer*,—not, of necessity, in words,
except as words are essential to the definiteness of thoughts, but in such
words or thoughts as constitute an expression to Him of the sentiments of
which He is fittingly the object. As regards prayer, indeed, the grave
doubts that exist in some minds as to its efficacy might be urged as a
reason why it should not be offered; but wrongly. It is so natural, so
intrinsically fitting to ask what we desire and need of an omnipresent,
omnipotent, all-merciful Being, who has taught us to call him our Father,
that the very appropriateness of the asking is in itself a strong reason
for believing that we shall not ask in vain. Nor can we ask in vain, if
through this communion of the human spirit with the Divine there be an
inflow of strength or of peace into the soul that prays, even though the
specific objects prayed for be not granted. That these objects, when
material, are often not granted, we very well know; yet we know too little
of the extent of material laws, and of the degree to which a discretionary
Providence may work, not in contravention of, but through those laws, to
pronounce dogmatically that the prayers of men are wholly unrecognized in
the course of events.

As the members of the same community have very numerous blessings and
needs in common, it is obviously fitting that they should unite in *public
worship, praise, and prayer*; and if this be a duty of the community
collectively, participation in it must, by parity of reason, be the duty
of its individual members. Public worship involves the fitness, we may
even say the necessity, of appropriating exclusively to it certain places
and times. Associations attach themselves to places so indelibly, that it
would be impossible to maintain the gravity and sacredness of devotional
services in buildings or on spots ordinarily devoted to secular purposes,
either of business or of recreation. Nor could assemblies for worship be
convened, otherwise that at predetermined and stated intervals; nor could
their devotional purpose be served, were there not stated portions of time
sequestered from ordinary avocations and amusements. Hence the duty—on the
part of all who admit the fitness of public worship—of reverence for
conventionally sacred places, and of abstinence from whatever is
inconsistent with the religious uses of the day appropriated to

It remains for us to consider *the obligations imposed by an acknowledged
revelation from God*. The position in which we are placed by such a
revelation may best be illustrated by reference to what takes place in
every human family. A judicious father’s commands, precepts, or counsels
to his son are of two kinds. In the first place, he lays emphatic stress
on duties which the son knows or might know from his own sense of the
fitting and the right, such as honesty, veracity, temperance. These duties
will not be in reality any more incumbent on the son because they are
urged upon him by his father; but if he be a son worthy of the name, he
will be more profoundly impressed by their obligation, and will find in
his filial love an additional and strong motive toward their observance.
The father will, in the second place, prescribe either for his son’s
benefit or in his own service certain specific acts, in themselves morally
indifferent, and these, when thus prescribed, are no longer indifferent,
but, as acts of obedience to rightful authority, they become fitting,
right, obligatory, and endowed with all the characteristics of acts that
are in themselves virtuous. Now a revelation naturally would, and the
Christian revelation does, contain precepts and commands of both these
classes. It prescribes with solemn emphasis the natural virtues which are
obligatory upon us on grounds of intrinsic fitness; and though these are
not thus made any the more our duty, we have, through the teachings and
example of Jesus Christ, a more vivid sense of our obligation, a higher
appreciation of the beauty of virtue, and added motives to its cultivation
derived from the love, the justice, and the retributive providence of God.
The Christian revelation, also, contains certain directions, not in
themselves of any intrinsic obligation, as, for instance, those relating
to baptism and the eucharist. So far as we can see, other and very
different rites might have served the same purpose with these. Yet it is
fitting and right that these, and not others, should be observed, simply
because the Divine authority which enacts them has a right to command and
to be obeyed. Duties of this class are commonly called _positive_, in
contradistinction from natural obligations. Both classes are equally
imperative on the ground of fitness; but with this difference, that in the
latter class the fitness resides in the duties themselves, in the former
it grows out of the relation between him who gives and those who receive
the command.

                               Section II.

Duties Of The Family.

*The inviolableness and permanence of marriage* are so absolutely
essential to the stability and well-being of families, as to be virtually
a part of the law of nature. The young of other species have but a very
brief period of dependence; while the human child advances very slowly
toward maturity, and for a considerable portion of his life needs, for
both body and mind, support, protection, and guidance from his seniors.
The separation of parents by other causes than death might leave it an
unsolvable question, to which of them the custody of their children
appertained; and in whichever way they were disposed of, their due nurture
and education would be inadequately secured. The children might be thrown
upon the mother’s care, while the means of supporting them belonged
exclusively to the father. Or in the father’s house they might suffer for
lack of a mother’s personal attention and services; while if he contracted
a new matrimonial connection, the children of the previous marriage could
hardly fail of neglect, or even of hatred and injury, from their mother’s
successful rival, especially if she had children of her own.(12)

The life-tenure of the marriage-contract contributes equally to the
*happiness of the conjugal relation*, in the aggregate. There are, no
doubt, individual cases of hardship, in which an utter and irremediable
incompatibility of temper and character makes married life a burden and a
weariness to both parties. But the cases are much more numerous, in which
discrepancies of taste and disposition are brought by time and habit into
a more comprehensive harmony, and the husband and wife, because unlike,
become only the more essential, each to the other’s happiness and welfare.
Where there is sincere affection, there is little danger that lapse of
years in a permanent marriage will enfeeble it; while, were the contract
voidable at will, there might be after marriage, as often before marriage,
a series of attachments of seemingly equal ardor, each to be superseded in
its turn by some new attraction. Where, on the other hand, the union is
the result, not of love, but of mutual esteem and confidence, aided by
motives of convenience, the very possibility of an easy divorce would
render each party captious and suspicious, so that confidence could be
easily shaken, and esteem easily impaired; while in those who expect
always to have a common home the tendency is to those habits of mutual
tolerance, accommodation, and concession, through which confidence and
esteem ripen into sincere and lasting affection.

As in many respects each family must be a unit, and as the conflict of
rival powers is no less ruinous to a household than to a state, *the
family must needs have one recognized head* or representative, and this
place is fittingly held by the husband rather than by the wife; for by the
laws and usages of all civilized nations he is held responsible—except in
criminal matters—for his wife and his minor children. But in the
well-ordered family, each party to the marriage-contract is supreme in his
or her own department, and in that of the other prompt in counsel,
sympathy, and aid, and slow in dissent, remonstrance, or reproof. These
departments are defined with perfect distinctness by considerations of
intrinsic fitness, and any attempt to interchange them can be only
subversive of domestic peace and social order.

*The parent’s duties to the child* are maintenance in his own condition in
life, care for his education and his moral and religious culture, advice,
restraint when needed, punishment when both deserved and needed, pure
example and wholesome influence, aid in the formation of habits and
aptitudes suited to his probable calling or estate in his adult years, and
provision for his favorable entrance on his future career. Some of these
duties are obviously contingent on the parent’s ability; others are
absolute and imperative. The judicious parent will, on the one hand,
retain his parental authority as long as he is legally responsible for his
child; but, on the other hand, will train him gradually to self-help and
self-dependence, and will concede to him, as he approaches years of
maturity, such freedom of choice and action as is consistent with his
permanent well-being.

*The child’s duty* is unqualified submission to the parent’s authority,
obedience to his commands, and compliance with his wishes, in all things
not morally wrong, and this, not only for the years of minority, but so
long as he remains a member of his parent’s family, or dependent on him
for subsistence. Subsequently, it is undoubtedly his duty to consult the
reasonable wishes of his parent, to hold him in respect and reverence, to
minister assiduously to his comfort and happiness, and, if need be, to
sustain him in his years of decline and infirmity.

                               Section III.


*The duty of veracity* is not contingent on the rights of any second
person, but is derived from considerations of intrinsic fitness. If
representations of facts, truths, or opinions are to be made, it is
obviously fitting and right that they should be conformed to one’s
knowledge or belief; and no one can make representations which he knows to
be false without the consciousness of unfitness and wrong.

*The most important interests of society depend on the confidence which
men repose in one another’s veracity.* But for this, history would be
worth no more than fiction, and its lessons would be unheeded. But for
this, judicial proceedings would be a senseless mockery of justice, and
the administration of law and equity, the merest haphazard. But for this,
the common intercourse of life would be invaded by incessant doubt and
suspicion, and its daily transactions, aimless and tentative. Against this
condition of things man is defended by his own nature. It is more natural
to tell the truth than to utter falsehood. The very persons who are the
least scrupulous in this matter utter the truth when they have no motive
to do otherwise. Spontaneous falsehood betokens insanity.

*The essence of falsehood lies in the intention to deceive*, not in the
words uttered. The words may bear a double sense; and while one of the
meanings may be true, the circumstances or the manner of utterance may be
such as inevitably to impose the false meaning upon the hearer. A part of
the truth may be told in such a way as to convey an altogether false
impression. A fact may be stated with the express purpose of misleading
the hearer with regard to another fact. Looks or gestures may be framed
with the intent to communicate or confirm a falsehood. Silent acquiescence
in a known falsehood may be no less criminal than its direct utterance.

*But has not one a right to conceal facts which another has no right to
know?* In such a case, concealment is undoubtedly a right; but falsehood,
or equivocation, or truth which will convey a false impression, is not a
right. This question has not unfrequently arisen with regard to anonymous
publications. It might be a fair subject of inquiry, whether anonymous
writing is not in all cases objectionable, on the ground that a sense of
personal responsibility for statements given to the public would insure a
more uniform regard to truth and justice, as well as greater care in the
ascertainment of facts, and more mature deliberation in the formation of
judgments and opinions. But if anonymous writing be justified, the writer
is authorized to guard his secret by employing a copyist, or by covert
modes of transmission to the press, or by avoiding such peculiarities of
style as might betray him. But if, notwithstanding these precautions, the
authorship be suspected and charged upon him, we cannot admit his right to
denial, whether expressly, or by implication, or even by the utterance of
a misleading fact. He undertook the authorship with the risk of discovery;
he had no right to give publicity to what he has need to be ashamed of;
and if there be secondary, though grave reasons why he would prefer to
remain unknown, they cannot be sufficient to justify him in falsehood.

*Is truth to be told to an insane person*, when it might be dangerous to
him or to others? May not he be deceived for his benefit, decoyed into a
place of safe detention, or deterred by falsehood from some intended act
of violence? Those who have the guardianship of the insane are unanimous
in the opinion that falsehood, when discovered by them, is always attended
with injurious consequences, and that it should be resorted to only when
imperatively required for their immediate safety or for that of others.
But in such cases the severest moralist could not deny the necessity, and
therefore the right, of falsehood. But it would be falsehood in form, and
not in fact. Truth-telling implies two conscious parties. The statement
from which an insane person will draw false inferences, and which will
drive him to an act or paroxysm of madness, is not truth to him. The
statement which is indispensable to his safety, repose, or reasonable
conduct, is virtually true to him, inasmuch as it conveys impressions as
nearly conformed to the truth as he is capable of receiving.

*Is falsehood justifiable for the safety of one’s own life or that of
others?* This is a broad question, and comprehends a very wide diversity
of cases. It includes the cases, in which the alternative is to deny one’s
political or religious convictions, or to suffer death for the profession
of them. Here, however, there can be no difference of opinion. Political
freedom and religious truth have been, in past ages, propagated more
effectively by martyrdoms, than by any other instrumentality; and no men
have so fully merited the gratitude and reverence of their race as those
who have held the truth dearer than life.

But the form which the question ordinarily assumes is this: *If by false
information I can prevent the commission of an atrocious crime, am I
justified in the falsehood?* It ought first to be said, that this is
hardly a practical question. Probably it has never presented itself
practically to any person under whose eye these pages will fall, or in any
instance within his knowledge. Nor can the familiar discussion of such
extreme cases be of any possible benefit. On the other hand, he who
familiarizes himself with the idea that under such a stress of
circumstances what else were wrong becomes right, will be prone to apply
similar reasoning to an exigency somewhat less urgent, and thence to any
case in which great apparent good might result from a departure from
strict veracity. Far better is it to make literal truth the unvarying law
of life, and then to rest in the assurance that, should an extreme case
present itself, the exigency of the moment will suggest the course to be
pursued. Yet, in ethical strictness, falsehood from one self-conscious
person to another cannot be justified; but we can conceive of
circumstances in which it might be extenuated. There are no degrees of
right; but of wrong there may be an infinite number of degrees. One
straight line cannot be straighter than another; but we can conceive of a
curve or a waving line that shall have but an infinitesimal divergence
from a straight line. So in morals, there may be an infinitesimal
wrong,—an act which cannot be pronounced right, yet shall diverge so
little from the right that conscience would contract from it no
appreciable stain, that man could not condemn it, and that we cannot
conceive of its being registered against the soul in the chancery of
heaven. Such may be the judgment which would properly attach itself to a
falsehood by which an atrocious crime was prevented.

                                * * * * *

*Promises* belong under the head of veracity for a double reason, inasmuch
as they demand in their making the truthful declaration of a sincere
purpose, and in their execution an equal loyalty to the truth, even though
it involve inconvenience, cost, or loss. The words of a promise may often
bear more than one interpretation; but it is obviously required by
veracity that the promiser should fulfil his promise in the sense in which
he supposed it to be understood by him to whom it was made.

There are *cases in which a promise should not be kept.* The promise to
perform an immoral act is void from the beginning. It is wrong to make it,
and a double wrong to keep it. The promise to perform an act, not
intrinsically immoral, but unlawful, should be regarded in the same light.
If both parties were aware, when the promise was made, of the unlawfulness
of the act, then neither party has the right to deem himself injured by
the other. If, however, the promiser was aware of the unlawfulness of his
promise, while the promisee supposed it lawful, the promiser, though not
bound by his promise, is under obligation to remunerate the promisee for
his disappointment or loss. If the act promised becomes unlawful between
the making and the execution of the promise, the promise is made void, and
the promisee has no ground of complaint against the promiser. Thus, if a
man promised to send to a correspondent goods of a certain description at
a certain time, and before that time the exportation of such goods were
prohibited by law, he would be free both from his promise and from
responsibility for its non-fulfilment.

A promise neither immoral nor unlawful, but made under a mistake common to
both parties, and such as—had it been known—would have prevented the
promise, is void. An extorted promise to perform an immoral or unlawful
act cannot be binding. One has, indeed, no moral right to make such a
promise, though if the case be one of extreme urgency and peril,
extenuating circumstances may reduce the wrong to an infinitesimal
deviation from the right; but, when the duress is over, no considerations
can justify the performance of what it was wrong to promise. But a
promise, not in itself immoral or unlawful, is binding, though made under
duress. Thus, if a man attacked by bandits has had his life spared on
condition of a pecuniary ransom, he is bound to pay the ransom; for at the
moment of peril he thought his life worth all he promised to give for it,
and it is neither immoral nor unlawful to give money, even to a robber. In
a case like this, regard for the safety of others should, also, have
weight; for in a country liable to such perils, the breach of a promise by
one man might cost the community the lives of many.

*Contracts* are mutual promises, in which each party puts himself under
specific obligations to the other. They are to be interpreted on the same
principles, and to be regarded as void or voidable on the same grounds,
with promises.

*An oath* is an invocation of the protection and blessing of God, or of
his indignation and curse, upon the person swearing, according as his
assertion is true or false, or as his promise shall be observed or
violated. “So help you God,” the form in common use in this country,
expresses the idea that underlies an oath,—_so_ being, of course, the
emphatic word. Oaths are exacted of witnesses in courts of justice in
confirmation of their testimony, and of incumbents of public offices in
pledge of their fidelity. They are required, too, in attestation of
invoices, inventories of estates, returns of taxable property, and various
financial and statistical statements made under public authority. There
are, also, not a few persons of whom, and occasions on which an oath of
allegiance to the government of the state or nation is demanded.

*An oath does not enhance one’s obligation* to tell the truth, or to
fulfil his promise. This obligation is entire and perfect in all cases, on
the ground of intrinsic fitness, and of the known will and command of God.
But the tendency of oaths is to establish in the minds of men two classes
of assertions and promises, one more sacred than the other. He who is
required under the solemn sanction of an oath merely to tell the truth or
to make a promise in good faith, arrives naturally at the conclusion that
he is bound to a less rigid accuracy or fidelity in ordinary statements or
promises. The law of the land, as we have seen, bears an important part in
the ethical education of the young; and by means of the legal distinction
created between assertions or promises under oath and those made without
that sanction, children and youth are trained to regard simple
truth-telling and promise-keeping as of secondary obligation. This effect
of legal oaths is attested by the prevalence of profane swearing, and by
the frequent use of oath-like forms of asseveration, not regarded as
profane, by persons of a more serious character. Except in the religious
sects that abjure the use of oaths, nine persons out of ten swear more or
less, and spontaneously confirm statements which are in the least degree
strange or difficult of belief, or promises to which they wish to give an
air of sincerity and earnestness, by the strongest oaths they dare to use.
This comes of a felt necessity, which will exist as long as preëminent
sanctity is attached to legal oaths.

*Oaths are notoriously ineffective in insuring* truth and fidelity. So far
as their educational influence is concerned, they tend, as we have seen,
to undermine the reverence for truth in itself considered, which is the
surest safeguard of individual veracity. Then too, so far as reliance is
placed upon an oath, the attention of those concerned is directed with the
less careful scrutiny to the character for veracity borne by him to whom
it is administered. In point of fact, men swear falsely whenever and
wherever they would be willing to utter falsehood without an oath. In
courts of justice, the pains and penalties of perjury undoubtedly prevent
a great deal of false swearing; but precisely the same penalties are
attached to the affirmation of persons who, on the ground of religious
scruples, are excused from swearing, and they certainly are none too
severe for false testimony, in whatever way it may be given.
Notwithstanding this check, however, it is well known that before a
corrupt or incompetent tribunal, an unprincipled advocate never finds any
difficulty in buying false testimony; and even where justice is uprightly
and skilfully administered, it is not rare to encounter between equally
credible witnesses such flagrant and irreconcilable contradictions as to
leave no room for any hypothesis other than perjury on one side or both.
Perjury in transactions with the national revenue and with municipal
assessors is by no means unprecedented among persons of high general
reputation. False oaths of this description are, indeed, not infrequently
preceded by some fictitious formalism, such as an unreal and temporary
transfer of property; but this is done, not in order to evade the guilt of
perjury, but, in case of detection, to open a technical escape from its
legal penalty. Promissory oaths are of equally little worth. There is not
a public functionary from the President of the United States to the
village constable, who does not take what is meant to be a solemn oath
(though often administered with indecent levity) to be loyal to the
constitution of the country or state, and faithful in the discharge of his
official duties. Yet what effect has this vast amount of swearing, if it
be not to make perjury so familiar an offence as to be no longer deemed
disgraceful? Not a bribe is taken by a member of Congress, not a contract
surreptitiously obtained by a municipal official, not an appointment made
to the known detriment of the public on personal or party grounds, without
the commission of a crime, in theory transcendentally heinous, in practice
constantly condoned and ignored. Nor can we be mistaken in regarding the
sacrilege and virtual blasphemy resulting from the institution of
judicial, assertory, and promissory oaths, as holding no secondary place
among the causes of the moral decline and corruption of which we witness
so manifest tokens.

To one who does not carry foregone conclusions of his own to the
interpretation of the New Testament, it can hardly appear otherwise than
certain that the Founder of Christianity intended to prohibit all oaths.
His precept, “Swear not at all,” occurs in a series of specifications of
maxims drawn from the standard morality of his day, under each of which he
sets aside the existing ethical rule, and substitutes for it one covering
precisely the same ground, and conformed to the intrinsic right as
represented in his own spirit and life. “Ye have heard that it hath been
said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you, that
ye resist not evil.” “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt
love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your
enemies.” The analogy of these and other declarations of the same series
compels us to believe that when Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it hath
been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt
perform unto the Lord thine oaths,” the precept which followed, “I say
unto you, Swear not at all,” must have applied to the same subject-matter
with the maxim which precedes it,—that Jesus must have intended to
disallow something that had been previously permitted. If so, not trivial
or profane oaths alone, but oaths made in good faith and with due
solemnity must have been included in the precept, “Swear not at all.”(13)
It is historically certain that the primitive Christians thus understood
the evangelic precept. They not only refused the usual idolatrous forms of
adjuration, but maintained that all oaths had been forbidden by their
Divine Lawgiver; nor have we any proof of their having receded from this
position, until that strange fusion of church and state under Constantine,
in which it is hard to say whether Christianity mounted the throne of the
Cæsars or succumbed to their rule.

                               Section IV.


*Honesty* relates to transactions in which money or other property is
concerned. In its broadest sense, it forbids not only the violation of the
rights of individuals, but, equally, acts and practices designed to gain
unfair emolument at the expense of the community, or of any class or
portion of its members. It enjoins not merely the paying of debts and the
performance of contracts, but rigid fidelity in every trust, whether
private or public. Its ground is intrinsic fitness; and a sense of fitness
will suggest its general rules, and will always enable one to determine
his duty in individual cases. Its whole field may be covered by two
precepts, level with the humblest understanding, and infallible in their
application. The first relates to transactions between man and man,—Do
that, and only that, which you would regard as just and right, if it were
done to you. The second embraces concerns that affect numbers or classes
of persons,—Do that, and only that, which, were you the responsible
trustee and guardian of the public good, you would prescribe or sanction
as just and right.

*Notwithstanding the undoubted increase of dishonesty* in recent times and
its disastrous frequency, there can be no doubt that *the majority of men
are honest*, and that the transactions in which there is no deception or
wrong, largely outnumber those which are fraudulent. Were this not so,
there could be neither confidence nor credit, enterprise would be
paralyzed, business would be reduced to the lowest demands of absolute
necessity, and every man would be the sole custodian of what he might
make, produce, or in any way acquire. There can, therefore, be no element
more directly hostile to the permanence, not to say the progress, of
material civilization and of the higher interests which depend upon it,
than fraud, peculation, and the violation of trust, in pecuniary and
mercantile affairs, and with reference to public funds and measures. Yet
there are methods, for which to a large degree honest men are responsible,
in which dishonesty is created, nourished, and rewarded. In political
life, if few office-holders are inaccessible to bribes, it is not because
men of impregnable integrity might not, as in earlier times, be found in
ample numbers for all places of trust; but because the compromises,
humiliations, and concessions through which alone, in many of our
constituencies, one can become the candidate of a party, are such as an
honest man either would spurn at the outset, or could endure only by
parting with his honesty. So long as men will persist in electing to
municipal trusts those whose sole qualification is blind loyalty and
unscrupulous service to a party, they can expect only robbery under the
form of taxation; and, in fact, the financial revelations that have been
made in the commercial metropolis of our country are typical of what is
taking place, so far as opportunity serves, in cities, towns, and villages
all over the land. As regards embezzlements, forgeries, and frauds in the
management of pecuniary trusts, there can be no doubt that the number is
greatly multiplied by the morbid sympathy of the public with the
criminals, by their frequent evasion of punishment or prompt pardon after
conviction, and by the ease with which they have often recovered their
social position and the means of maintaining it.

In addition to this complicity with fraud and wrong on the part of the
public, there are many ways in which *dishonesty engenders*, almost
necessitates *dishonesty*. A branch of business, in itself honest, may be
virtually closed against an honest man. The adulterations of food, so
appallingly prevalent, will suggest an illustration of this point. There
are commodities in which the mixture of cheaper ingredients cannot be
detected by the purchaser, and which in their debased form can be offered
at so low a price as to drive the genuine commodities which they replace
out of the market; and thus the alternative is presented to the hitherto
honest dealer to participate in the fraud, or to quit the business. The
former course is, no doubt, taken by many who sincerely regret the seeming

*Dishonesty* not only injures the immediate sufferer by the fraud or
wrong, but when it becomes frequent, *is a public injury* and calamity. In
one way or another it alienates from the use of every honest man a very
large proportion of his earnings or income. In this country, at the
present time, we probably fall short of the truth in saying that at least
a third part of every citizen’s income is paid in the form of either
direct or indirect taxation, and of this amount a percentage much larger
than would be readily believed is pillaged on its way into the treasury or
in its disbursement. Then, as regards bad debts (so-called), most of them
fraudulently contracted or evaded, they are not, in general, the loss of
the immediate creditor, nor ought they to be; he is obliged to charge for
his goods a price which will cover these debts, and honest purchasers must
thus pay the dues of the insolvent purchaser. Nor is this a solitary
instance in which innocent persons are obliged to suffer for wrongs with
which they seem to have no necessary connection. There are very few
exceptions to the rule, under which, however, we have room but one more
example. It is a well known fact that many American railways have not only
cost very much more money than was ever laid out upon them, but are made,
by keeping the construction-account long and generously open, to represent
on the books of the respective corporations much larger sums than they
cost,—especially in cases where the enterprise is lucrative and the
dividends are limited by statute.

Now in some sections of our country a transaction of this kind—essentially
fraudulent, under however respectable auspices—is a disastrous check on
productive industry by the heavy freight-tariff which it imposes,—so heavy
sometimes as to keep bulky commodities, as wheat and corn, out of the
markets where, at a fair cost for transportation, they might find
remunerative sale. Thus the very means devised for opening the resources
of a region of country may be abused to their obstruction and hindrance.
In fine, dishonesty in all its forms has a diffusive power of injury, and,
on the mere ground of self-defence, demands the remonstrance and
antagonism of the entire community.

While in most departments of conduct there is a wide neutral *ground
between the right and the condemnably wrong*, there are matters of
business in which there seems to be no such intermediate territory, but in
which what is fair, honorable, and even necessary, is closely contiguous
to dishonesty. Thus, except in the simplest retail business, all modern
commerce is speculation, and the line between legitimate and dishonest
speculation is to some minds difficult of discernment. Yet the
discrimination may be made. A man has a right to all that he earns by
services to the community, and these earnings may in individual instances
reach an immense sum. We can easily understand how this may be, nay, must
needs be the case with the very high salaries paid to master
manufacturers. Such salaries would not be paid, did not the intelligence,
skill, and organizing capacity of these men cheapen by a still larger
amount the commodities made under their direction. The case is precisely
similar with the merchant engaged in legitimate commerce. By his knowledge
of the right times and best modes of purchasing, by his enterprise and
sagacity in maintaining intercourse with and between distant markets, and
by his outlay of capital and skill as a carrier of commodities from the
place of their production to the place where they are needed for use, he
cheapens the goods that pass through his hands by a greater amount than
the toll he levies upon them, which—however large—is his rightful due.

Thus also, when, in anticipation of a scarcity of some one commodity, a
merchant so raises the price as essentially to diminish the sale, *he
earns his increased profits*; for an enhanced price is the only
practicable check on consumption. For instance, if at the actual rate of
consumption the bread-stuff on hand would be consumed a month before the
new harvest could be made availing, no statistical statement could prevent
the month of famine; but experienced grain-merchants can adjust the price
of the stock in hand so as to induce precisely the amount of economy which
will make that stock last till it can be replaced. They will, indeed,
obtain a large profit on their sales, and will be accused by ignorant
persons of speculating on scarcity and popular apprehension; but it will
be due wholly to their prescience that the scarcity did not become famine,
and the apprehension suffering; and they will have merited for this
service more than the largest profits that can accrue to them.

The same principles will apply to *speculation in stocks*, which is in
many minds identified with dishonest gain. Stocks are marketable
commodities, equally with sugar and salt. They are liable to legitimate
fluctuations in value, their actual value being affected, often by facts
that transpire, often by opinions that rest on assignable grounds. Now if
a man possess skill and foresight enough to buy stocks at their lowest
rates and to sell them when they will bring him a profit, he makes a
perfectly legitimate investment of his intelligence and sagacity, and in
facilitating sales for those who need to sell, and purchases for those who
wish to buy, and thus preventing capital from lying unused, or remaining
inconvertible at need, he earns all that his business yields him by the
substantial services which he renders.

*The legitimate business of the merchant and the broker is contingent, as
we have seen, on fluctuations in the market*, and he who has the sagacity
to foresee these fluctuations and the enterprise to prepare for them,
derives from them advantage to which he is fairly entitled. But it is
precisely at this point that the stress of temptation rests, and the
opportunity presents itself for dishonesty in ways of which the laws take
no cognizance, and on which public opinion is by no means severe. The
contingencies which sagacity can foresee, capital and credit can often
create. Virtual scarcity may be produced by forestalling and monopoly.
When there is no actual dearth, even famine-prices may be obtained for the
necessaries of life by the skilful manipulation of the grain-market. So
too, in the stock-market, bonds and shares, instead of being bought or
sold for what they are worth, of actual owners and to real purchasers, may
be merely gambled with,—bought in large amounts in order to create a
demand that shall swell their price, or so thrown upon the market as to
reduce their price below their real value, and all this with the sole
purpose of mutual contravention and discomfiture. By operations of this
kind, not only is no useful end subserved, but the financial interests and
relations of the community are injuriously, often ruinously, deranged;
while not a few private holders of stock have their credit essentially
impaired by a sudden fall of price, or by the inflation of nominal value
are led into rash speculations.

In the cases cited it may be seen how closely *the right abuts upon the
wrong*, so that one may over-pass the line almost unconsciously. Yet it is
believed that a man may determine for himself on which side of the line he
belongs. The department of business, or the mode of transacting business,
which cannot by any possibility be of benefit to the community, still
more, that which in its general course is of positively injurious
tendency, is essentially dishonest, even though there be no individual
acts of fraud. He really defrauds the public who lives upon the public
without rendering, or purposing to render any valuable return; and if
there be any profession or department of business to which this
description applies, it should be avoided or forsaken by every man who
means to be honest.

Among the many mooted cases in which the question of honesty is involved,
our proposed limits will permit us to consider only that of usury(14)
(so-called). There can be no doubt that usury laws and the opinion that
sustains them sprang from the false theory, according to which money was
regarded, not as value, but merely as the measure of value. It is now
understood that it owes its capacity to measure value solely to its own
intrinsic value; that its paper representatives can equal it in purchasing
power only when convertible at pleasure into coin; and that paper not
immediately convertible can obtain the character of money only so far as
there is promise or hope of its ultimate conversion into coin. It follows
that money stands on the same footing with all other values,—that its use,
therefore, is a marketable commodity, varying indefinitely in its fitting
price, according as money is abundant or scarce, the loan for a long or a
short period, and the borrower of more or less certain solvency. For
ordinary loans the relations of supply and demand are amply competent to
regulate the rate of interest, while he who incurs an extra-hazardous risk
fairly earns a correspondingly high rate of compensation. There is,
therefore, no intrinsic wrong in one’s obtaining for the use of his money
all that it is worth; and while we cannot justify the violation of any
laws not absolutely immoral, dishonesty forms no part of the offence of
the man who takes more than legal interest.(15)

                                Section V.


*We have a distinct consciousness of the needs of human beings.* If we
have not suffered destitution in our own persons, we yet should deprecate
it. What we should dread others feel. The things which we find or deem
essential to our well-being, many lack. We, it may be, possess them or the
means of procuring them, beyond our power of personal use. This larger
share of material goods has come to us, indeed, honestly, by the operation
of laws inherent in the structure of society, and thus, as we believe, by
Divine appointment. At the same time we are conscious, in a greater or
less degree, of the benevolent affections. We are moved to pity by the
sight or knowledge of want or suffering. Our sense of fitness is painfully
disturbed by the existence of needs unsupplied, of calamities unrelieved.
We cannot but be aware of the adaptation of such superfluity of material
goods as we may possess to beneficent uses; and it can hardly be that we
shall not rest in the belief that, in the inevitable order of society, it
is the predetermined design and purpose of abundance to supply
deficiency,—of the capacity of service, to meet the ever pressing demands
for service. Beneficence, then, is a duty based on considerations of
intrinsic fitness.

But *beneficence must be actual*, not merely formal, *good-doing*. Some of
the most easy and obvious modes of supply or relief are adapted to
perpetuate the very evils to which they minister, either by destroying
self-respect, by discouraging self-help, or by granting immunity to
positively vicious habits. The tendency of instinctive kindness is to
indiscriminate giving. But there can be very few cases in which this is
not harmful. It sustains mendicants as a recognized class of society; and
as such they are worse than useless. They necessarily lose all sense of
personal dignity; they remain ignorant or become incapable of all modes of
regular industry, and it is impossible for them to form associations that
will be otherwise than degrading and corrupting.

Of equally injurious tendency are the various modes of *relief at the
public charge*. They affix upon their beneficiaries the indelible brand of
pauperism, which in numerous instances becomes hereditary, and in not a
few cases has been transmitted through several generations. Experience has
shown that recovery from a condition thus dependent is exceedingly rare,
even with the young and strong, who, had they been tided over the stress
of need by private and judicious charity, would shortly have resumed their
place among the self-subsisting members of the community. Public alms,
while they are thus harmful to their recipients, impose upon society a far
heavier burden than private charity. This is due in part to the permanent
pauperism created by the system, in part to the wastefulness which
characterizes public expenditures of every kind. By special permission of
the national legislature, the experiment was tried in Glasgow, under the
direction of Dr. Chalmers, of substituting private munificence for relief
from the public chest, in one of the poorest territorial parishes of the
city, embracing a population of ten thousand, and the result was the
expenditure of little more than one third of what had been expended under
legal authority. At the same time, the poor and suffering were so much
more faithfully and kindly cared for, that there was a constant overflow
of poverty from the other districts of the city into this. Public charity,
when thoroughly systematized, is liable to the still stronger objection,
that those who are able to give relief, in ceasing to feel the necessity,
lose the will and the capacity of benevolent effort. Yet, were there no
public provision for the poor, there would be cases of destitution,
disease, disability, and mental imbecility, which would elude private
charity, however diligent and generous. It must be remembered, too, that
the same causes may at once enhance the demand for beneficent aid, and
cripple its resources. Thus, in a conflagration, a flood, a dearth, or a
commercial panic, while the stress of need among the poor is greatly
intensified, the persons on whose charity, under ordinary circumstances,
they could place the most confident reliance, may be among the chief
sufferers. Thus, also, during the prevalence of infectious disease, a
large proportion of those who are wont to perform the offices of humanity
for the suffering, are withdrawn by their own fears, or those of their
friends, from their wonted field of service. Then, too, there are various
forms of disease and infirmity, which demand special treatment or a
permanent asylum; and while institutions designed to meet these wants are
more wisely and economically administered under private than under public
auspices, the state should never suffer them to fail or languish for lack
of subsidy from private sources. The most desirable condition of things
undoubtedly is that—more nearly realized in France than in any other
country in Christendom—in which the relief of the poor and suffering in
ordinary cases, and the charge of charitable institutions to a large
degree, are left to individuals, voluntary organizations, and religious
fraternities and sisterhoods, while government supplements and subsidizes
private charity where it is found inadequate to the need.

The demands upon beneficence are by no means exhausted, when material
relief and aid have been bestowed. Indeed, alms are often given as a
purchase of quitclaim for personal service. But the manifestation and
expression of sympathy may make the gift of immeasurably more worth and
efficacy. Considerate courtesy, delicacy, and gentleness are essential
parts of beneficence. There are very few so abject that they do not feel
insulted and degraded by what is coldly, grudgingly, superciliously, or
chidingly bestowed; while the thoughtful tenderness which never forgets
the sensibilities of those whom it relieves, inspires comfort, hope, and
courage, arouses whatever capacity there may be of self-help, and is often
the means of replacing the unfortunate in the position from which they
have fallen.

*Beneficence has a much broader scope than the mere relief of the poor and
suffering.* In the daily intercourse of life there are unnumbered
opportunities for kindness, many of them slight, yet in their aggregate,
of a magnitude that eludes all computation. There is hardly a transaction,
an interview, a casual wayside meeting, in which it is not in the power of
each person concerned to contribute in an appreciable degree to the
happiness or the discomfort of those whom he thus meets, or with whom he
is brought into a relation however transient. In all our movements among
our fellow-men, it is possible for us to “go about doing good.” What we
can thus do we are bound to do. We perceive and feel that this is fitting
for us as social and as mutually dependent beings. We are conscious of the
benefit accruing to us from little, nameless attentions and courtesies,
often of mere look, or manner, or voice; and from these experiences we
infer that the possibility, and therefore the duty of beneficence is
coextensive with our whole social life.

The *measure of beneficence*, prescribed for us on the most sacred
authority, “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do
ye even so to them,” needs only to be stated to be received as authentic.
It supplies a measure for our expectations also, as well as for our
duties. We have a right to expect from others as much courtesy, kindness,
service as, were they in our place and we in theirs, we should feel bound
to render to them,—a rule which would often largely curtail our
expectations, and in the same proportion tone down our disappointments and
imagined grievances.

There is another scriptural precept, “*Thou shalt love thy neighbor as
thyself,*” which might at first sight seem impracticable, yet which, as we
shall see on closer examination, represents not only a possible
attainment, but one toward which all who heartily desire and love to do
good are tending. There are various conditions under which, confessedly,
human beings love others as well as themselves, or better. What else can
we say of the mother’s love for her child, for whose well-being she would
make any conceivable sacrifice, nay, were there need, would surrender life
itself? Have we not also sometimes witnessed, a filial devotion equally
entire and self-forgetting?

Nor are instances wanting, in which brothers and sisters, or friends who
had no bonds of consanguinity, have shown by unmistakable deeds and
sufferings that their love for one another was at least equal to their
self-love. This same love for others, as for himself, is manifested by the
self-devoting patriot, the practical philanthropist, the Christian
missionary. There is ample ground for it in the theory of humanity which
forms a part of our accustomed religious utterance. We call our fellow-men
our brethren, as children of the same Father. So far as sayings like these
are sentiments, and not mere words, there must be in our feelings and
conduct toward and for our fellow-men in general a kindness, forbearance,
self-forgetfulness, and self-sacrifice similar to that of which, toward
our near kindred, we would not confess ourselves incapable. Here it must
be borne in mind that the precepts of Christianity represent the
perfection which should be our constant aim and our only goal, not the
stage of attainment which we are conscious of having reached, or of being
able to reach with little effort.

*The love of enemies* is also enjoined upon us by Jesus Christ. Is this
possible? Why not? There are cases where one’s nearest kindred are his
worst enemies; and we have known instances in which love has survived this
rudest of all trials. Were the Christian idea of universal brotherhood a
profound sentiment, it would not be quenched by enmity, however bitter.
Enmity toward ourselves need not affect our estimate of one’s actual merit
or claims. If we should not think the worse of a man because he was the
enemy of some one else, why should we think the worse of him because he is
our enemy? He may have mistaken our character and our dispositions; and if
so, is he more culpable for this than for any other mistake? Or if, on the
other hand, he has some substantial reason for disliking us, we should
either remove the cause, or submit to the dislike without feeling
aggrieved by it. At any rate we can obey the precept, “Do good to them
that hate you;” and this is the only way, and an almost infallible way, in
which the enmity may be overcome, and superseded by relations of mutual
kindness and friendship.

                               Chapter XI.


There are, in almost every prolonged human experience, *privations and
sufferings to be endured, disappointments to be submitted to, obstacles
and difficulties to be surmounted and overcome*. From whatever source
these elements of experience proceed, even if from blind chance, or from
_fate_ (which denotes the _utterance_ or decree of arbitrary and
irresponsible power), the strong man will brace himself up to bear them;
the wise man will shape his conduct by them; the man of lofty soul will
rise above them. But the temper in which they will be borne, yielded to,
or surmounted, must be contingent on the belief concerning them. If they
are regarded as actual evils, they will probably be endured with
sullenness, or submitted to with defiance and scorn, or surmounted with
pride and self-inflation. Even in the writings of the later Stoics, which
abound in edifying precepts of fortitude and courage under trial, there is
an undertone of defiance, as if the sufferer were contending with a
hostile force, and a constant tendency to extol and almost deify the
energy of soul which the good man displays in fighting with a hard
destiny. If, on the other hand, physical evils are regarded as wise and
benign appointments of the Divine love and fatherhood, the spirit in which
they are borne and struggled against is characterized by tenderness,
meekness, humility, trust, and hope. It is instructive in this regard to
read alternately the Stoics and St. Paul, and to contrast their
magnanimous, but grim and stern resignation, with the jubilant tone in
which, a hundred times over, and with a vast variety of gladsome
utterance, he repeats the sentiment contained in those words, “As
sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” As ours is the Christian theory as to
the (so-called) evils of human life, we shall recognize it in our
treatment of the several virtues comprehended under the general title of

                                Section I.


*Patience* is incumbent on us, only under inevitable sufferings or
hardships, or under such as are incurred in the discharge of manifest
duty, or for the benefit of our fellow-men. Needless sufferings or
privations we are bound to shun or to escape, not to bear. The caution and
foresight by which they may be evaded hold an essential place among the
duties of prudence. Nor does reason or religion sanction self-imposed
burdens or hardships of any kind, whether in penance for wrong-doing, as a
means of purchasing the Divine favor, or as a mode of spiritual

Patience implies *serenity, cheerfulness, and hopefulness*, under burdens
and trials. It must be distinguished from apathy, which is a temperament,
not a virtue. There are some persons whose sensibilities are so sluggish
that they are incapable of keen suffering, and of profound and lasting
sorrow. We can hardly call this a desirable temperament; for its capacity
of enjoyment is equally defective, and, as there is more happiness than
misery in almost every life, he whose susceptibility of both pain and
pleasure is quick and strong is, on the whole, the gainer thereby. The
serenity of patience requires vigorous self-command. It is essential,
first of all, to control, and as far as possible to suppress, the outward
tokens of pain and grief. They, like all modes of utterance, deepen the
feeling they express; while a firm and self-contained bearing enhances the
fortitude which it indicates. Control must also be exercised over the
thoughts, that they be abstracted from the painful experience, and
employed on themes that will fill and task them. Mental industry is the
best relief that mere philosophy has for pain and sorrow; and though it
certainly is not a cure, it never fails to be of service as a palliative.
Even when bodily distress or infirmity renders continuous thought
impossible, the effort of recollection, or the employment of the mind in
matters too trivial for its exercise in health, may relieve the weariness
and lighten the stress of suffering. Nor let devices of this sort be
deemed unworthy of a place even among duties; for they are often essential
means to ends of high importance. They assert and maintain the rightful
supremacy of the mind over the body; they supersede that morbid brooding
upon painful experiences which generates either melancholy or
querulousness; and they leave in the moral nature an unobstructed entrance
to all soothing and elevating influences.

*Cheerfulness* in the endurance of pain and hardship must result in great
part from the belief. If I regard myself as irresistibly subject to an
automatic Nature, whose wheels may bruise or crush me at any moment, I
know not why or how I could be cheerful, even in such precarious health or
prosperity as might fall to my lot; and there could certainly be no
reassuring aspect to my adverse fortune. But if I believe that under a
fatherly Providence there can be no suffering without its ministry of
mercy, no loss without its greater gain within my reach and endeavor, no
hardship without its reflex benefit in inward growth and energy, then I
can take and bear the inevitable burdens of this earthly life in the same
spirit in which I often assume burdens not imposed upon me from without,
for the more than preponderant benefit which I hope to derive from them.
But if I have this faith in a benignant Providence which will not afflict
me uselessly, I am under obligation not to let my faith, if real, remain
inactive in my seasons of pain, loss, or grief. I am bound so to ponder on
my assured belief, and on such proofs of it as may lie in my past
experience, that it shall give its hue to my condition, its tone to my
thought, its direction to the whole current of my sentiment and feeling.
Thus may endurance be not only calm, but cheerful, because pervaded by the
conviction that at the heart of all that seems evil there is substantial

Yet, it cannot be denied that there are life-long burdens and
griefs,—incurable illnesses, irretrievable losses, bereavements that will
never cease to be felt, and cannot be replaced. Especially in advanced
years there are infirmities, disabilities, and privations, which cannot by
any possibility have a resultant revenue equivalent to what they take from
us; for in old age the growth of character is too slow to be worth the
sacrifice which in earlier life may be more than compensated by the
consciousness of spiritual enlargement and increase. How shall these
burdens be borne cheerfully? They cannot, unless they be also borne
hopefully. But if there be presented to the faith, beyond the earthly
life, a future, the passage into which is to be made the easier by loss
and sorrow here; if families are there to be reunited, and void places in
the affections filled again; if worthy hopes, seemingly disappointed, are
only postponed for a richer and happier fulfilment,—there is in that
future exhaustless strength for solace and support under what must be
endured here. Earthly trial must seem light and momentary in view of
perfect and eternal happiness; and thus the hope that lays hold on an
infinite domain of being is coined into utilities for the daily needs of
the tried, suffering, afflicted, and age-bowed, supplying to patience an
element without which it cannot be made perfect.

                               Section II.


There are events, seemingly adverse, which in themselves are transient,
and inflict no permanent discomfort, but which necessitate the surrender
of cherished expectations, the change of favorite plans, it may be, the
life-long abandonment of aims and hopes that had held the foremost place
in the anticipated future. Here submission of some sort is a necessity.
But the submission may be querulous and repining; it may be bitter and
resentful; it may be stern and rigid. In the last of these types only can
there be any semblance of virtue; and this last can be virtuous, only
where inevitable events are attributed to Fate, and not to Providence. But
if a wise and kind Providence presides over human affairs, its decrees are
our directory. The very events which hedge in, mark out our way. The tree
which has its upward growth checked spreads its branches; that which is
circumscribed in its lateral expansion attains the greater height. The
tendrils of the vine are guided by the very obstacles placed in its way.
Thus, in human life, impassable barriers in one direction prescribe aims
and endeavors in a different direction. The things that we cannot do
determine the things that we ought to do. The growth which is impeded must
give place to growth of a different type, and to us undoubtedly more
wholesome, more congenial with our capacities, more conducive to our true
well-being. What seem obstacles may be supports, giving the best possible
direction to our active powers, and so training our desires and affections
as to lead to higher happiness and more substantial good than could have
otherwise been attained.

*Submission*, then, *must be grounded in faith*. The inevitable must be to
us the appointment of Omniscient Love. In our childhood the very regimen
and discipline that were least to our taste proceeded often from the
wisest counsels, and in due time we acquiesced in them as judicious and
kind, nor would we in the retrospect have had them otherwise. As little as
we then knew what was best for our well-being in the nearer future, we may
now know as to what is best for us in a remote future, whether in the
present or in a higher state of being. All that remains for us is
acquiescence, cheerful and hopeful, in a Wisdom that cannot err, in a Love
which can will only the best of which we are capable.

*Submission* is not merely a passive, but equally *an active virtue*.
Inevitable events impose imperative duties. In the direction which they
indicate there is work for us, of self-culture, of kindness, of charity.
Our characters can be developed, not by yielding, however cheerfully, to
what seem misfortunes, but by availing ourselves of the opportunities
which they present, in place of those of which they have deprived us. When
the way we had first chosen is barred against us, we are not to lie still,
but to move onward with added diligence on the way that is thus opened to
us. If outward success is arrested and reverted, there is only the more
reason for improving the staple of our inward being. If those dearest to
us have passed beyond the reach of our good offices, there are the more
remote that may be brought near, and made ours, by our beneficence. If our
earthly life is rendered desolate, the affections, hopes, and aims thus
unearthed may by our spiritual industry and thrift be trained heavenward.
All this is included in full submission to the will of the Divine
providence; for that will is not our loss, disappointment, or suffering,
but our growth, by means of it, in quantity of mental and spiritual life,
in capacity of duty, and in the power of usefulness.

                               Section III.


Patience, as its name imports, is a passive quality; Submission blends the
passive and the active; while *Courage* is preëminently an active virtue.
Patience resigns itself to what must be endured; submission conforms
itself to what it gladly would, but cannot reverse; courage resists what
it cannot evade, surmounts what it cannot remove, and declines no conflict
in which it is honorable to engage. It is obvious that the occasions for
these virtues are widely different. Patience has its place where calm and
cheerful endurance is the only resource; submission, where there must be
voluntary self-adaptation to altered circumstances; courage, where there
is threatened evil which strenuous effort can avert, mitigate, or subdue.

*Courage is a virtue, only when it is a necessity.* There is no merit in
seeking danger, in exciting opposition, in courting hostility. Indeed,
conduct of this description more frequently proceeds from persons who know
themselves cowards and fear to be thought so, than from those who are
actually possessed of courage. But there are perils, encounters, enmities,
which cannot by any possibility be avoided, and there are others which can
be avoided only by the sacrifice of principle, or by the surrender of
opportunities for doing good, and which, therefore, to a virtuous man are

The *physical courage*, commonly so called, which is prompt and fearless
in the presence of imminent danger, or in armed conflict with enemies, may
be, or may not be, a virtue. It may proceed from a mind too shallow and
frivolous to appreciate the worth of life or the magnitude of the peril
that threatens it; it may, as often in the case of veteran soldiers, be
the result of discipline without the aid of principle; or it may depend
wholly on intense and engrossing excitement, so that he who would march
fearlessly at the head of a forlorn hope might quail before a solitary
foe. But if one be, in the face of peril, at the same time calm and
resolute, self-collected and firm, cautious and bold, fully aware of all
that he must encounter and unfalteringly brave in meeting it, such courage
is a high moral attainment. Its surest source is trust in the Divine
providence,—the fixed conviction that the inevitable cannot be otherwise
than of benignant purpose and ministry, though that purpose may be
developed and that ministry effected only in a higher state of being. To
this faith must be added a strong sense of one’s manhood, and of his
superiority by virtue of that manhood over all external surroundings and
events. We are conscious of a rightful supremacy over the outward world,
and deem it unworthy to succumb, without internecine resistance, to any
force by which we may be assailed, whether that force be a power of nature
or a wrongful assault from a fellow-man. It is the presence of this
consciousness that wins our admiration for all genuine heroism, and the
absence of it at the moment of need that makes cowardice contemptible.

There is a *moral courage* required in pursuing our legitimate course in
life, or in discharging our manifest duty, notwithstanding straitnesses,
hindrances, obstacles, to which the feeble and timid could not but yield.
The constituent elements of this type of courage are precisely the same
that are needed in the encounter with physical peril. In both cases it is
equally unmanly to succumb until we have resisted to the utmost. But while
physical courage can at best only insure our safety, moral courage
contributes essentially to the growth of mind and character; and the
larger the opportunity for its exercise, the greater will be the mass of
mind, the quantity of character, the power of duty and of usefulness.
Straitnesses develop richer resources than they bar. Hindrances nurture
hardihood of spirit in the struggle against them, or in the effort to
neutralize them. Obstacles, when surmounted, give one a higher position
than could be attained on an unobstructed path. The school of difficulty
is that in which we have our most efficient training for eminence, whether
of capacity or of moral excellence. What are accounted inevitable evils
are, when met with courage, only benefits and blessings, inasmuch as they
bring into full and vigorous exercise the hardier muscles and sinews of
the inner man, to measure strength with them or to rise above them.

Courage is needed in *the profession and maintenance of the true and the
right*, when denied, assailed, or vilipended. Communities never move
abreast in the progress of opinion. There are always pioneer minds and
consciences; and the men who are in advance of their time must encounter
obloquy at least, often persecution, loss, hardship, sometimes legal
penalties and disabilities. Under such circumstances, there are doubtless
many more that inwardly acknowledge the unpopular truth or the contested
right, than there are who are willing to avow and defend their belief.
Many are frightened into false utterance or deceptive silence. But there
must be in such minds a conscious mendacity, fatal to their own
self-respect, and in the highest degree detrimental to their moral
selfhood. It demands and at the same time nurtures true greatness of soul
to withstand the current of general opinion, to defy popular prejudice, to
make one’s self “of no reputation” in order to preserve his integrity
unimpaired. Therefore is it that, in the lapse of time, the very men who
have been held in the lowest esteem rise into eminence in the general
regard, sometimes while they are still living, oftener with a succeeding
generation. Martyrs in their day, they receive the crown of martyrdom when
the work which they commenced is consummated. The history of all the great
reforms which have been successive eras in the moral progress of
Christendom is full of names, once dishonored, now among the foremost of
their race.

This type of courage has, in less enlightened ages than our own, been made
illustrious by *those who have sacrificed life rather than deny or
suppress beliefs* which they deemed of vital moment. It can hardly be
anticipated that the civilized world will recede so far into barbarism as
to light again the death-flame of persecution; but it may be questioned
whether the chronic sacrifice of all which men most desire in life
requires or manifests less of heroism than in earlier times furnished
victims for the arena or the stake.

In the moral hierarchy the first rank is probably due to *the courage that
inspires and sustains arduous and perilous philanthropic enterprise*. The
martyr for opinion suffers or dies rather than stain his soul with the
positive guilt of falsehood; while the philanthropist might evade toil and
danger without committing any actual sin, or making himself liable to
censure or disapproval either from God or man. In the former case,
hardship or danger is rendered inevitable by the felt necessity of
self-respect; in the latter, by the urgency of a love for man equal or
superior to the love for self. As examples of this highest type of
courage, it may suffice to name Howard, whose labors for prison-reform
were pursued at the well-known risk and the ultimate cost of his life;
Florence Nightingale and the noble sisterhood inaugurated by her, who have
won all the untarnished and undisputed laurels of recent wars on both
sides of the Atlantic; and the Christian missionaries to savage tribes and
in pestilential climates, who have often gone to their work with as clear
a consciousness of deadly peril as if they had been on their way to a

                               Chapter XII.


There are many duties that are self-defined and self-limited. Thus, the
ordinary acts of justice and many of the charities of daily life include
in themselves the designation of time, place, and measure. There are other
duties, of equal obligation, which admit of wide variance as to these
particulars, but which can be most worthily and efficiently performed only
when reference is had to them. There are, also, many acts, in themselves
morally indifferent, which acquire their moral character as right or wrong
solely from one or more of these particulars. Thus recreations that are
innocent and fitting on Saturday, may be inconsistent with the proprieties
of Sunday; conversation and conduct perfectly befitting the retirement of
home may be justly offensive in a place of public concourse; or there may
be great guilt in the excessive use of that which used in moderation may
be blameless, fitting, and salutary.

                                Section I.


*A life-time is none too long for a life’s work.* Hence the fitness, and
therefore the duty, of a careful economy of time. This economy can be
secured only by a systematic arrangement of one’s hours of labor,
relaxation, and rest, and the assignment to successive portions of the
day, week, or year, of their appropriate uses. The amount of time wasted,
even by an industrious man who has no method or order in his industry,
bears a very large proportion to the time profitably employed. In the
needlessly frequent change of occupations, there is at each beginning and
ending a loss of the working power, which can neither start on a new
career at full speed, nor arrest itself without previous slackening. This
waste is made still greater by the suspense or vacillation of purpose of
those who not only have no settled plans of industry, but often know not
what to do, or are liable, so soon as they are occupied in one way, to
feel themselves irresistibly drawn in a different direction.

But in the distribution of time *a man should be the master, not the slave
of his system*. The regular work and the actual duty of the moment do not
always coincide. Due care for health, the opportunity for earned and
needed recreation, the claims of charity, courtesy, and hospitality, in
fine, the immediate urgency of any duty selfward, manward, or Godward,
should always take precedence of routine-work however wisely planned.
Obstinate adherence to system may lead to more and greater criminal
omissions of duty than would be incurred, even in the spasmodic industry
which takes its impulse from the passing moment. It must be remembered
that timeliness is the essential element of right and obligation in many
things that ought to be done, especially in all forms of charity, alike in
great services, and in those lesser amenities and kindnesses which
contribute so largely to the charm of society and the happiness of
domestic life. There are many good offices which, performed too late, were
better left undone,—courtesies which, postponed, are
incivilities,—attentions which, out of season, are needless and wearisome.

*Every day, every waking hour has its own duty*, either its special work,
or its due portion of one’s normal life-work. Procrastination is,
therefore, as unwise as it is immoral, or rather, it is immoral because it
is unwise and unfitting. The morrow has its own appropriate duties; and if
to-day’s work be thrown into it, the massing of two days’ good work into
one exceeds ordinary ability. The consequence is, either that both days’
works are imperfectly performed, or that part of what fitly belongs to the
morrow is pushed farther on, and the derangement of duty made chronic.
Thus there are persons who are always in arrears with their engagements
and occupations,—in chase, as it were, after duties which they never lose
from sight, and never overtake.

*Hardly less grave,* though less common, *is the error of those who
anticipate duty*, and do to-day what they ought to do to-morrow. The work
thus anticipated may be superseded, or may be performed under better
auspices and with fewer hindrances in its own time; while it can hardly
fail to interfere injuriously with the fit employment or due relaxation of
the passing day. Moreover, the habit of thus performing work before its
time at once betokens and intensifies an uneasy, self-distrusting frame of
mind, unfavorable to vigorous effort, and still more so to the quiet
enjoyment of needed rest and recreation. There are those, who are
perpetually haunted by the forecast shadows, not only of fixed, but of
contingent obligations and duties,—shadows generally larger than the
substance, and often wholly destitute of substance.

*Punctuality*(17) denotes the most scrupulous precision as to
time,—exactness to a moment in the observance of all times that can be
designated or agreed upon. In matters with which we alone are concerned,
we undoubtedly have of right, and may often very fittingly exercise, the
dispensing power. Thus, in the arrangement of our own pursuits, the clock
may measure and direct our industry, without binding us by its stroke. It
is often of more consequence that we finish what is almost done, than that
we change our work because the usual hour for a change has arrived. But
where others are concerned, rigid punctuality is an imperative duty. A
fixed time for an assembly, a meeting of a committee or board of trust, or
a business interview, is a virtual contract into which each person
concerned has entered with every other, and the strict rules that apply to
contracts of all kinds are applicable here. Failure in punctuality is
dishonesty. It involves the theft of time, which to some men is money’s
worth, to others is worth more than money. It ought not to surprise us if
one wantonly or habitually negligent in this matter should prove himself
oblivious of other and even more imperative obligations; for the dullness
of conscience and the obscure sense of right, indicated by the frequent
breach of virtual contracts as to time, betoken a character too feeble to
maintain its integrity against any strong temptation.

                               Section II.


The trite maxim, *A place for everything, and everything in its place*, so
commends itself to the sense of fitness, as hardly to need exposition or
enforcement; yet while no maxim is more generally admitted, scarce any is
so frequently violated in practice. In duty, the elements of time and
place are intimately blended. Disorder in place generates derangement in
time. The object which is out of place can be found only by the waste of
time; and the most faithful industry loses a large part of its value when
its materials are wanting where they ought to be, and must be sought where
they ought not to be.

Apart from considerations of utility, order is an æsthetic duty. It is
needed to satisfy the sense of beauty. Its violation offends the eye,
insults the taste. The æsthetic nature craves and claims culture. It has
abundant provision made for it in external nature; but so large a part of
life must be passed within doors, at least in a climate like ours, that it
is starved and dwarfed, if there be not in interior arrangements some
faint semblance of the symmetry and harmony of the universe. To effect
this needs neither abundance nor costliness of material. A French man or
woman will charm the eye at a cost which in England would be represented
by bare and squalid poverty. A Parisian shop-window will make with a few
francs’ worth of goods an exhibition of artistical beauty which might
challenge the most fastidious criticism. These effects are produced solely
by prime reference to fitness of place,—to orderly arrangement,—to a
symmetry which all can understand, and which any one might copy. Our very
capacity of receiving gratification from this source is the measure of our
duty in this regard. If with the simplest materials we can give pleasure
to the soul through the eye by merely assigning its fit place to every
object, order is among the plainest dictates of beneficence.

*Order is essential to domestic comfort and well-being*, and thus to all
the virtues which have their earliest and surest nurture in domestic life.
There are homes at once affluent and joyless, groaning with needless waste
and barren of needed comfort, in which the idea of repose seems as
irrelevant as Solomon’s figure of lying down on the top of a mast, and all
from a pervading spirit of disorder. In such dwellings there is no love of
home. The common house is a mere lodging and feeding place. Society is
sought elsewhere, pleasure elsewhere; and for the young and easily
impressible there is the strongest inducement to those modes of
dissipation in which vice conceals its grossness behind fair exteriors and
under attractive forms. On the other hand, the well-ordered house affords
to its inmates the repose, comfort, and enjoyment which they crave and
need, and for those whose characters are in the process of formation may
neutralize allurements to evil which might else be irresistible.

                               Section III.


There are many objects, as to which *the question of duty is a question of
more or less*. To this class belong not only food and drink, but all forms
of luxury, indulgence, recreation, and amusement. In all these the choice
lies between excess, abstinence, and temperance. The tendency to excess is
intensely strong, when not restrained by prudence or principle. This
tendency is by no means confined to the appetite for intoxicating liquors,
though modern usage has restricted to excess in this particular the term
_intemperance_, which properly bears a much more extended signification.
There is reason to believe that there is fully as much intemperance in
food as in drink, and with at least equally ruinous consequences as to
capacity, character, health, and life,—with this difference only, that
gluttony stupefies and stultifies, while drunkenness maddens; and that the
glutton is merely a dead weight on the community, while the drunkard is an
active instrument of annoyance and peril. There are probably fewer who
sink into an absolutely beastly condition by intemperance in food than by
intemperance in drink; but of persons who do not expose themselves to open
scandal, those whose brains are muddled, whose sensibilities are
coarsened, and whose working power is impaired by over-eating, are more
numerous than those in whom similar effects are produced by over-free
indulgence in intoxicating drinks. Intemperance in amusements, also, is
not uncommon, and would undoubtedly be more prevalent than it is, were not
the inevitable necessity of labor imposed on most persons from a very
early period. In this matter the limit between temperance and excess is
aptly fixed by the term _recreation_, as applied to all the gay and
festive portions of life. _Re-creation_ is making over, that is, replacing
the waste of tissue, brain-power, and physical and mental energy
occasioned by hard work. Temperance permits the most generous indulgence
of sport, mirth, and gayety that can be claimed as needful or conducive to
this essential use, but excludes all beyond this measure.

*Abstinence* from all forms of luxury and recreation, and from food and
drink beyond the lowest demands of subsistence, has, under various
cultures, been regarded as a duty, as an appropriate penance for sin, as a
means of spiritual growth, as a token of advanced excellence. This notion
had its origin in the dualistic philosophy or theology of the East. It was
believed that the sovereignty of the universe was divided between the
semi-omnipotent principles of good and evil, and that the earth and the
human body were created by the evil principle,—by Satan or his analogue.
Hence it was inferred that the evil principle could be abjured and defied,
and the good principle propitiated in no way so effectually as by
renouncing the world and mortifying the body. Fasting, as a religious
observance, originated in this belief. It was imported from the East. The
Hebrew fasts were not established by Moses; they were evidently borrowed
from Babylon, and seem to have been regarded with no favor by the
prophets. The Founder of Christianity prescribed no fast, nor have we any
reason to believe that his immediate disciples regarded abstinence as a
duty. Christian asceticism in all its forms is, like the Jewish fasts, of
Oriental origin, and had its first developments in close connection with
those hybrids of Christianity and Oriental philosophy of which the dualism
already mentioned forms a prominent feature.

With regard to all objects of appetite, desire, and enjoyment,
*temperance* is evidently fitting, and therefore a duty, unless there be
specific reasons for abstinence. Temperance demands and implies moral
activity. In the temperate man the appetites, desires, and tastes have
their continued existence, and need vigilant and wise control, so that he
has always work to do, a warfare to wage; and as conflict with the
elements gives vigor to the body, so does conflict with the body add
strength continually to the moral nature. The ascetic may have a hard
struggle at the outset; but his aim is to extirpate his imagined enemies
in the bodily affections, and when these are completely mortified, or put
to death, there remains no more for him to do, and moral idleness and
lethargy ensue. Simon Stylites, who spent thirty-seven years on pillars of
different heights, had probably stupefied his moral faculties and
sensibilities as effectually as he had crushed to death the appetites and
cravings of the body. It must not be forgotten that the body no less than
the soul is of God’s building, and that in his purpose all the powers and
capacities of the body are good in their place and uses, and therefore to
be controlled and governed, not destroyed or suppressed. The mediæval
saint, feeding on the offal of the streets, was unwittingly committing
sacrilege, by degrading and imbruting an appetite for which God had
provided decent and wholesome nutriment.

Temperance is better than abstinence, also, because *the moderate use of
the objects of desire is a source of refining and elevating influences*.
It is not without meaning that, in common speech, the possession or loss
of the senses is made synonymous with mental sanity or derangement. By the
temperate gratification of the senses the mind is sustained in its
freshness, vigor, and serenity; while when they are perverted by excess,
impaired by age, or deadened by disease, in that same proportion the
mental powers are distracted, enfeebled, or benumbed. Taste, the faculty
through which we become conversant with the whole realm of beauty, and
than which devotion has no more efficient auxiliary, derives its name from
what the ascetic deems the lowest animal enjoyment, which, however, has
its range of the very highest ministries. The table is the altar of
home-love and of hospitality, and there are clustered around it unnumbered
courtesies, kindnesses, and charities that make a large part of the charm
and joy of life. So far is thoughtfulness for its graceful and generous
service from indicating a low type of character, that there is hardly any
surer index of refinement and elegant culture than is furnished by the
family meal. Similar remarks apply to the entire range of pleasurable
objects and experiences. While there are none of them in which excess is
safe, they all, when enjoyed in moderation, stimulate the mental powers,
develop and train the æsthetic faculty, and multiply beneficial relations
alike with nature and with society.

*Temperance*, rather than abstinence, *is needed on grounds connected with
social economy*. Labor for the mere necessaries of life occupies hardly a
tithe of human industry. A nation of ascetics would be a nation of idlers.
It is the demand for objects of enjoyment, taste, luxury, that floats
ships, dams rivers, stimulates invention, feeds prosperity, and creates
the wealth of nations. It is only excess and extravagance that sustain and
aggravate social inequalities, wrongs, wants, and burdens; while moderate,
yet generous use oils the springs and speeds the wheels of universal
industry, progress, comfort, and happiness.

But there are *cases in which abstinence*, rather than temperance, *is a

*Past excess* may render temperance hardly possible. From the derangement
consequent upon excess, an appetite may lose the capacity of healthy
exercise. In such a case, as we would amputate a diseased and useless
limb, we should suppress the appetite which we can no longer control.
Physiological researches have shown that the excessive use of intoxicating
drinks, when long continued, produces an organic condition, in which the
slightest indulgence is liable to excite a craving so intense as to
transcend the control of the will.

*Inherited proclivities* may, in like manner, render temperance so
difficult as to make abstinence a duty. It is conceivable that a nation or
a community may, by the prevalence of excess in past generations, be
characterized by so strong a tendency to intemperance as to render general
abstinence a prerequisite to general temperance.

Abstinence may also become a duty, if to many around us our *example* in
what we may enjoy innocently would be ensnaring and perilous. The
recreation, harmless in itself, which by long abuse has become a source of
corruption, it may be our duty to forego. The indulgence, safe for us,
which would be unsafe for our associates, it may be incumbent on us to
resign. The food, the drink which would make our table a snare to our
guests, we may be bound to refrain from, though for ourselves there be in
it no latent evil or lurking danger. This, however, is a matter in which
each person must determine his duty for himself alone, and in which no one
is authorized to legislate for others. It may seem to a conscientious man
a worthy enterprise to vindicate and rescue from its evil associations an
amusement or indulgence in itself not only harmless, but salutary; and
there may be an equally strong sense of right on both sides of a question
of social morality falling under this head. The joyous side of life must
be maintained. The young, sanguine, and happy will at all events have
recreations, games, festivities, and of these there is not a single
element, material, or feature that has not been abused, perverted, or
invested with associations offensive to a pure moral taste. To disown and
oppose them all in the name of virtue, is to prescribe a degree of
abstinence which can have the assent of those only who have outlived the
capacity of enjoyment. The more judicious course is to favor, or at least
to tolerate such modes of indulgence as may for the present be the least
liable to abuse, or such as may in prospect be the safest in their moral
influence, and by sanctioning these to render more emphatic and efficient
the disapproval and rejection of such as are intrinsically wrong and evil.

                               Section IV.


The ancients had but one word for *manners and morals*. It might be well
if the same were the case with us,—yet with this essential difference,
that while they degraded morals to the level of manners, a higher culture
would lead us to raise manners to the level of morals. The main
characteristics of good manners are comprised in the three preceding
Sections. They are the observance, in one’s demeanor and conduct toward
others, of the fitnesses of time and place, and of the due and graceful
mean between overwrought, extravagant, or fantastic manifestations of
regard on the one hand, and coldness, superciliousness, or indifference on
the other. Courtesies, like more substantial kindnesses, are neutralized
by delay, and, when slow, seem forced and reluctant. Attentions, which in
their place are gratifying, may, if misplaced, occasion only mortification
and embarrassment, as when civilities befitting interior home-life are
rehearsed for the public eye and ear. Nor is there any department of
conduct in which excess or deficiency is more painfully felt,—a redundance
of compliments and assiduities tending to silence and abash the recipient,
while their undue scanting inflicts a keen sense of slight, neglect, and

*Politeness* must, indeed, in order even to appear genuine, be the
expression of sincere kindness. There is no pretence so difficult to
maintain as the false show of genial and benevolent feeling. The mask
cannot be so fitted to the face as not to betray its seams and sutures.
Yet kindness is not of itself politeness. Its spontaneous expressions may
be rude and awkward; or they may take forms not readily understood and
appreciated. There are conventional modes of polite demeanor no less than
of courteous speech. These modes may have no intrinsic fitness, yet they
acquire a fitness from their long and general use; and while the mere
repetition of stereotyped formulas whether in word or deportment is justly
offensive, he who would have his politeness recognized and enjoyed must
beware lest he depart too widely from the established sign-language of
society. There is a _brusquerie_ often underlying hearty kindness and good
fellowship, which at the outset pains, wounds, and repels those brought
within its sphere, and which the most intimate friends endure and excuse
rather than approve.

*Politeness is to be regarded as an indispensable duty.* It is believed
that from its neglect or violation more discomfort ensues than from any
other single cause, and in some circles and conditions of society more
than from all other causes combined. There are neighborhoods and
communities that are seldom disturbed by grave offences against the
criminal law, but none which can insure itself against the affronts,
enmities, wounded sensibilities, rankling grievances, occasioned by
incivility and rudeness. Moreover, there are persons entirely free from
vice, perhaps ostentatious in the qualities which are the opposites of
vices, and not deficient in charitable labors and gifts, who cultivate
discourtesy, are acrid or bitter in their very deeds of charity, and carry
into every society a certain porcupine selfhood, which makes their mere
presence annoying and baneful. Such persons, besides the suffering they
inflict on individuals, are of unspeakable injury to their respective
circles or communities, by making their very virtues unlovely, and piety,
if they profess it, hateful. On the other hand, there is no truer
benefactor to society—if the creation of happiness be the measure of
benefit—than the genuine gentleman or gentlewoman, who adds grace to
virtue, politeness to kindness; who under the guidance of a sincere
fellow-feeling, studies the fitnesses of speech and manner, in civility
and courtesy endeavors to render to all their due, and in the least
details that can affect another’s happiness, does carefully and
conscientiously all that the most fastidious sensibility could claim or

                                Section V.


*The establishment and preservation of order is the prime and essential
function of government*; the prevention and punishment of crime, its
secondary, incidental, perhaps even temporary use. In a perfect state of
society, government would still be necessary; for it would be only by the
observance of common and mutual designations of time, place, and measure,
that each individual member of society could enjoy the largest liberty and
the fullest revenue from objects of desire, compatible with the just
claims and rights of others. These benefits can, under no conceivable
condition in which finite beings can be placed, be secured except by
system, under a central administration, and with the submission of
individual wills and judgments to constituted and established authority. A
bad government, then, is better than none; for a bad government can exist
only by doing a part of its appropriate work, while in a state of anarchy
the whole of that work is left undone and unattempted.

*Obedience to government is*, then, fitting, and therefore a duty,
independently of all considerations as to the wisdom, or even the justice
of its decrees or statutes. If they are unwise, they yet are rules to
which the community can conform itself, and by which its members can make
their plans and govern their expectations, while lawlessness is the
negation alike of guidance for the present and of confidence in the
future. If they are unjust, they yet do less wrong and to fewer persons,
than would be done by individual and sporadic attempts to evade or
neutralize them. Nay, unwise and inequitable laws, to which the habits and
the industrial relations of a people have adjusted themselves, are to be
preferred to vacillating legislation, though in a generally right
direction. Laws that affect important interests should be improved only
with reference to the virtual pledges made by previous legislation, and so
as to guard the interests involved against the injurious effects of new
and revolutionary measures. The tariff regulations of our own country will
illustrate the bearing of this principle. It forms no part of our present
plan to discuss the mooted questions of free trade and protection. But in
the confession of even extreme partisans on either side, the capital and
industry of our people could never have suffered so much from any one
tariff of duties, however injudicious, as they suffered for a series of
years from sudden changes of policy, by which investments that had been
invited by the legislation of one Congress were made fruitless by the
action of the next, and manufactures stimulated into rapid growth by high
protective duties, were arrested and often ruined by their sudden repeal.
The stability of laws is obviously a higher good than their conformity to
the theoretical views of the more enlightened citizens. Except under a
despotism, laws are virtually an expression of the opinion or will of the
majority; and laws which by any combination of favoring circumstances are
enacted in advance of the general opinion, are always liable to speedy
repeal, with a double series of the injurious consequences which can
hardly fail to ensue immediately on any change.

But are there no *limits to obedience*? Undoubtedly there are. A bad law
is to be obeyed for the sake of order; an immoral law is to be disobeyed
for the sake of the individual conscience; and of the moral character of a
particular law, or of action under it, the individual conscience is the
only legitimate judge. Where the law of the land and absolute right are at
variance, the citizen is bound, not only to withhold obedience, but to
avow his belief, and to give it full expression in every legitimate form
and way, by voice and pen, by private influence and through the
ballot-box. But in the interest of the public order, it is his duty to
confine his opposition to legal and constitutional methods, to refrain
from factious and seditious resistance, to avoid, if possible, the
emergency in which disobedience would become his duty, and in case his
conscience constrains him to disobedience, still to show his respect for
the majesty of law by quietly submitting to its penalty. The still recent
history of our country furnishes a case in point. By the Fugitive-Slave
Law—which the Divine providence, indeed, repealed without waiting for the
action of Congress—the private citizen who gave shelter, sustenance, or
comfort to a fugitive slave; who, knowing his hiding-place, omitted to
divulge it, or who, when called upon to assist in arresting him, refused
his aid, was made liable to a heavy fine and a long imprisonment. Now as
to this law, it was obviously the duty of a citizen who regarded the slave
as entitled to the rights of a man, to seek its repeal by all
constitutional methods within his power. It was equally his duty to
refrain from all violent interference with the functionaries charged with
its execution, and to avoid, if possible, all collision with the
government. But if, without his seeking, a fugitive slave had been cast
upon his humane offices, the question then would have arisen whether he
should obey God or man; and to this question he could have had but one
answer. Yet his obedience to God would have lacked its crowning grace, if
he had not meekly yielded to the penalty for his disobedience to the law
of the land. It was by this course that the primitive Christians attested
their loyalty at once to God and to “the powers that be,” which were
“ordained of God.” They refused obedience to the civil authorities in
matters in which their religious duty was compromised; but they neither
resisted nor evaded the penalty for their disobedience. Similar was the
course of the Quakers in England and America almost down to our own time.
They were quiet and useful citizens, performing the same functions with
their fellow-citizens, so far as their consciences permitted, and, where
conscience interposed its veto, taking patiently the distraining of their
goods, and the imprisonment of their bodies, until, by their blameless
lives and their meek endurance, they won from the governments both of the
mother country and of the United States, amnesty for their conscientious

There may be a state of society in which it becomes *the duty of good
citizens to assume an illegal attitude, and to perform illegal acts, in
the interest of law and order*. If those who are legally intrusted with
executive and judicial offices are openly, notoriously, and persistently
false to their trusts, to such a degree as to derange and subvert the
social order which it is their function to maintain, good citizens, if
they have the power, have undoubtedly the right to displace them, and to
institute a provisional government for the temporary emergency. A case of
this kind occurred a few years ago in San Francisco. The entire government
of the city had for a series of years been under the control of ruffians
and miscreants, and force and fraud had rendered the ballot-box an
ineffectual remedy. No law-abiding citizen deemed his life or property
safe; gross outrages were committed with impunity; and thieves and
murderers alone had the protection of the municipal authorities.
Despairing of legal remedy, the best citizens of all parties organized
themselves under the direction of a Committee of Safety, forcibly deposed
the municipal magistrates and judges, brought well-known criminals to
trial, conviction, and punishment, reëstablished the integrity of
suffrage, and resigned their power to functionaries lawfully elected,
under whom and their successors the city has enjoyed a degree of order,
tranquillity, and safety at least equal to that of any other great city on
the continent.

*The right of revolution* undoubtedly is inherent in a national body
politic; but it is an extreme right, and is to be exercised only under the
most urgent necessity. Its conditions cannot be strictly defined, and its
exercise can, perhaps, be justified only by its results. A constitutional
government can seldom furnish occasion for violent revolutionary measures;
for every constitution has its own provisions for legal amendment, and the
public sentiment ripe for revolution can hardly fail to be strong enough
to carry the amendments which it craves, through the legal processes,
which, if slow and cumbrous, are immeasurably preferable to the employment
of force and the evils of civil war. On the other hand, a despotic or
arbitrary government may admit of abrogation only by force; and if its
administration violates private rights, imposes unrighteous burdens and
disabilities, suppresses the development of the national resources, and
supersedes the administration of justice or the existence of equitable
relations between class and class or between man and man, the people—the
rightful source and arbiter of government—has manifestly the right to
assert its own authority, and to substitute a constitution and rulers of
its own choice for the sovereignty which has betrayed its trust. Under
similar oppression, the same right unquestionably exists in a remote
colony, or in a nation subject by conquest to a foreign power. If that
power refuses the rights and privileges of subjects to a people over which
it exercises sovereignty, and governs it in its own imagined interests,
with a systematic and persistent disregard to the well-being of the people
thus governed, resistance is a right, and may become a duty. In fine, the
function of government is the maintenance of just and beneficent order; a
government forfeits its rights when it is false to this function; and the
rights thus forfeited revert to the misgoverned people.

                              Chapter XIII.


Casuistry is the application of the general principles of morality to
individual _cases_ in which there is room for question as to duty. The
question may be as to the obligation or the rightfulness of a particular
act, as to the choice between two alternative courses, as to the measure
or limit of a recognized duty, or as to the grounds of preference when
there seems to be a conflict of duties. A large proportion of these cases
disappear under any just view of moral obligation. Most questions of
conscience have their origin in deficient conscientiousness. He who is
determined to do the right, the whole right, and nothing but the right, is
seldom at a loss to know what he ought to do. But when the aim is to evade
all difficult duties which can be omitted without shame or the clear
consciousness of wrong, and to go as close as possible to the boundary
line between good and evil without crossing it, the questions that arise
are often perplexing and complicated, and they are such as, in the
interest of virtue, may fittingly remain unanswered. There are always
those whose aim is, not to attain any definite, still less any
indefinitely high, standard of goodness, but to be saved from the penal
consequences of wrong-doing; and there are even (so-called) religious
persons, and teachers too, with whom this negative indemnity from
punishment fills out the whole meaning of the sacred and significant term
_salvation_. It must be confessed that questions which could emanate only
from such minds, furnish a very large part of the often voluminous and
unwieldy treatises on casuistry that have come down to us from earlier
times, especially of those of the Jesuit moralists, whose chief endeavor
is to lay out a border-path just outside the confines of acknowledged
wrong and evil.

Yet there are *cases in which the most conscientious persons may be in
doubt as to the right*. We can here indicate only the general principles
on which such cases are to be decided, with a very few specific

*The question of duty is often a question*, not of principle, but *of
fact*. It is the _case_, the position and relations of the persons or
objects concerned, that we do not fully understand. For instance, when a
new appeal is made for our charitable aid, in labor or money, the question
is not whether it is our duty to assist in a work of real beneficence, but
whether for the proposed object, and under the direction of those who make
the appeal, our labor or money will be lucratively invested in the service
of humanity. There are, certainly, benevolent associations and enterprises
for the very noblest ends, whose actual utility is open to the gravest
doubt. It is sometimes difficult even to determine a question of justice
or equity, simply because the circumstances of the case, so far as we can
understand them, do not define the right. Instances of this class might be
multiplied; but they are all instances in which there is no obscurity as
to our obligation or duty, and therefore no question for moral casuistry.
We are, however, obviously bound, by considerations of fitness, to seek
the fullest information within our power in every case in which we are
compelled to act, or see fit to act; nor can we regard action without
knowledge, even though the motive be virtuous, as either safe or

*The measure or limit of duty* is with many conscientious persons a
serious question. Here an exact definition is hardly possible, and a
generous liberty may be given to individual taste or judgment; yet
considerations of fitness set bounds to that liberty. Thus direct and
express self-culture is a duty incumbent on all, yet in which diversity of
inclination may render very different degrees of diligence equally fitting
and right; but all self-centred industry is fittingly limited by domestic,
social, and civic obligations. Thus, also, direct acts of beneficence are
obviously incumbent on all; but the degree of self-sacrifice for
beneficent ends need not, nay, ought not to be the same for every one; and
while we hold in the highest admiration those who make the entire
surrender of all that they have and are to the service of mankind, we have
no reason to scant our esteem for those who are simply kind and generous,
while they at the same time labor, spend, or save for their own benefit.
Indeed, the world has fully as much need of the latter as of the former.
Were the number of self-devoting philanthropists over-large, a great deal
of the necessary business and work of life would be left undone; and did
self-denying givers constitute a very numerous body, the dependent and
mendicant classes would be much more numerous than they are; while the
withdrawal of expenditure for personal objects would paralyze industrial
enterprise, and arrest the creation of that general wealth which
contributes to the general comfort and happiness, and the accumulation of
those large fortunes which are invaluable as safety-funds and
movement-funds for the whole community.

There are cases in which there is manifestly a *conflict of duties*. This
most frequently occurs between prudence and beneficence. Up to a certain
point they coincide. No prudent man will suffer himself to contract
unsocial, or selfish, or miserly habits, or to neglect the ordinary good
offices and common charities of life. But is one bound to transcend the
limits of prudence, and, without any specific grounds of personal
obligation, to incur loss, hardship, or peril, in behalf of another
person? One is no doubt bound to do all that he could reasonably expect
from another, were their positions reversed; but is it his duty to do more
than this? In answer, it must be admitted that he who in such a case
suffers prudence to limit his beneficence has done all that duty
absolutely requires; but, in proportion to the warmth of his benevolence
and the loftiness of his spirit and character, he will find himself
constrained to transcend this limit, and to sacrifice prudence to
beneficence. Thus—to take an instance from a class of events by no means
infrequent—if I see a man in danger of drowning, it is obviously my duty
to do all that I can do for his rescue without putting my own life in
jeopardy. But I owe him no more than this. My own life is precious to me
and to my family, and I have a right so to regard it. I shall not deserve
censure or self-reproach, if I decline exposing myself to imminent peril.
Yet if I have the generosity and the courage which belong to a truly noble
nature, I shall not content myself with doing no more than this,—I shall
hazard my own safety if there is reason to hope that my efforts may have a
successful issue; and in so doing I shall perform an act of heroic virtue.
The same principle will apply to exposure, danger, and sacrifice of every
kind, incurred for the safety, relief, or benefit of others. We transgress
no positive law of right, when we omit doing for others more than we could
rightfully expect were we in their place. Prudence in such a case is our
right. But it is a right which it is more noble to surrender than to
retain; and the readiness with which and the degree in which we are
willing to surrender it, may be taken as a fair criterion of our moral
growth and strength.

Under the title of *Justice*, with the broad scope which we have given to
it, there may be an apparent conflict of duties, and there are certain
obvious laws of precedence which may cover all such cases. We should first
say that our obligations to the Supreme Being have a paramount claim above
all duties to inferior beings, had we not reason to believe that God is in
no way so truly worshipped and served as by acts of justice and mercy to
his children. The Divine Teacher has given us to understand, not that
there is no time or place too sacred for charity, but that holy times and
places have their highest consecration in the love to man which love to
God inspires.

Toward men, it hardly needs to be said that justice (in the limited and
ordinary acceptation of the word) *has the precedence of charity*. Indeed,
were it not for the prevalence of injustice—individual, social, and
civic—there would hardly be any scope for the active exercise of charity.
Want comes almost wholly from wrong. Were justice universal, that is, were
the rights and privileges which fitly belong to men as men, extended to
and made available by all classes and conditions of men, there would still
be great inequalities of wealth and of social condition; but abject and
squalid poverty could hardly exist. In almost every individual instance,
the withholding or delay of justice tends more or less directly toward the
creation of the very evils which charity relieves. No amount of
generosity, then, can palliate injustice, or stand as a substitute for

As regards the persons to whom we owe offices of kindness or charity, it
is obvious that *those related to us by consanguinity or affinity have the
first ** claim*. These relations have all the elements of a natural
alliance for mutual defence and help; and it is impossible that their
essential duties should be faithfully discharged and their fitnesses duly
observed, without creating sympathies that in stress of need will find
expression in active charity. In the next rank we may fittingly place our
benefactors, if their condition be such as to demand a return for their
kind offices in our behalf. Nearness in place may be next considered; for
the very fact that the needs of our neighbors are or may be within our
cognizance, commends them especially to our charity, and enables us to be
the more judicious and effective in their relief. Indeed, in smaller
communities, where the dwellings of the rich and of the poor are
interspersed, a general recognition of the claims of neighborhood on
charity would cover the field of active beneficence with an efficiency
attainable in no other way, and at a greatly diminished cost of time and
substance. There is yet another type of neighborhood, consecrated to our
reverent observance by the parable of the Good Samaritan. There are from
time to time cases of want and suffering brought, without our seeking,
under our immediate regard,—cast, as it were, directly upon our kind
offices. The person thus commended to us is, for the time, our nearest
neighbor, nay, our nearest kinsman, and the very circumstances which have
placed him in this relation to us, make him fittingly the foremost object
of our charity.

The question sometimes presents itself *whether ** we shall bestow an
immediate, yet transient benefit, or a more remote, but permanent good*.
If the two are incompatible, and the former is not a matter of absolute
necessity, the latter is to be preferred. Thus remunerative employment is
much more beneficial than alms to an able-bodied man, and it is better
that he suffer some degree of straitness till he can earn a more
comfortable condition, than that he be first made to feel the dependence
of pauperism. Yet if his want be entire and urgent, the delay of immediate
relief is the part of cruelty. On similar grounds, beneficence which
embraces a class of cases or persons is to be preferred to particular acts
of kindness to individuals. Thus it seems harsh to refuse alms to an
unknown street beggar; but as such relief gives shelter to a vast amount
of fraud, idleness, and vice, it is much better that we should sustain, by
contributions proportioned to our ability, some system by which cases of
actual need, and such only, can be promptly and adequately cared for, and
that we then—however reluctantly—refuse our alms to applicants of doubtful

                               Chapter XIV.


The numerous *ethical systems* that have had currency in earlier or later
times, may be divided into two classes,—the one embracing those which make
virtue a means; the other, those which make it an end. According to the
former, virtue is to be practised for the good that will come of it;
according to the latter, for its own sake, for its intrinsic excellence.
These classes have obvious subdivisions. The former includes both the
selfish and the utilitarian theory; while the latter embraces a wide
diversity of views as to the nature, the standard, and the criterion of
virtue, according as it is believed to consist in conformity to the
fitness of things, in harmony with an unsophisticated taste, in accordance
with the interior moral sense, or in obedience to the will of God. There
are, also, border theories, which blend, or rather force into
juxtaposition, the ideas that underlie the two classes respectively.

It is proposed, in the present chapter, to give an outline of *the history
of ethical philosophy in Greece and Rome*, or rather, in Greece; for Rome
had no philosophy that was not born in Greece.

*Socrates* was less a moral philosopher than a preacher of virtue.
Self-ordained as a censor and reformer, he directed his invective and
irony principally against the Sophists, whose chief characteristic as to
philosophy seems to have been the denial of objective truth, and thus, of
absolute and determinate right. Socrates, in contrast with them, seeks to
elicit duty from the occasions for its exercise, making his collocutors
define right and obligation from the nature of things as presented to
their own consciousness and reflection. Plato represents him, whenever a
moral question is under discussion, as probing the very heart of the case,
and drawing thence the response as from a divine oracle.

*Plato* held essentially the same ground, as may be seen in his
identifying the True, the Beautiful, and the Good; but it is impossible to
trace in his writings the outlines of a definite ethical system, whether
his own, or one derived from his great master.

The three *principal schools of ethical philosophy in Greece* were the
Peripatetic, the Epicurean, and the Stoic.

The *Peripatetics* derived their philosophy from Aristotle, and their name
from his habit of walking up and down under the plane-trees of the Lyceum.
According to him, virtue is conduct so conformed to human nature as to
preserve all its appetites, proclivities, desires, and passions, in mutual
check and limitation. It consists in shunning extremes. Thus courage
stands midway between cowardice and rashness; temperance, between excess
and self-denial; generosity, between prodigality and parsimony; meekness,
between irascibility and pusillanimity. Happiness is regarded as the
supreme good; but while this is not to be attained without virtue, virtue
alone will not secure it. Happiness requires, in addition, certain outward
advantages, such as health, riches, friends, which therefore a good man
will seek by all lawful means. Aristotle laid an intense stress on the
cultivation of the domestic virtues, justly representing the household as
the type, no less than the nursery, of the state, and the political
well-being of the state as contingent on the style of character cherished
and manifested in the home-life of its members.

There is reason to believe that *Aristotle’s personal character* was
conformed to his theory of virtue,—that he pursued the middle path, rather
than the more arduous route of moral perfection. Though much of his time
was spent in Athens, he was a native of Macedonia, and was for several
years resident at the court of Philip as tutor to Alexander, with whom he
retained friendly relations for the greater part of his royal pupil’s
life. Of his connection with the Macedonian court and public affairs,
there are several stories that implicate him dishonorably with political
intrigues, and though there is not one of these that is not denied, and
not one which rests on competent historical authority, such traditions are
not apt so to cluster as to blur the fair fame of a sturdily incorruptible
man, but are much more likely to cling to the memory of a trimmer and a

*Epicurus,* from whom the Epicurean philosophy derives its name, was for
many years a teacher of philosophy in Athens. He was a man of simple,
pure, chaste, and temperate habits, in his old age bore severe and
protracted sufferings, from complicated and incurable disease, with
singular equanimity, and had his memory posthumously blackened only by
those who—like theological bigots of more recent times—inferred, in
despite of all contemporary evidence, that he was depraved in character,
because they thought that his philosophy ought to have made him so.

He represented *pleasure as the supreme good*, and its pleasure-yielding
capacity as the sole criterion by which any act or habit is to be judged.
On this ground, the quest of pleasure becomes the prime, or rather the
only duty. “Do that you may enjoy,” is the fundamental maxim of morality.
There is no intrinsic or permanent distinction between right and wrong.
Individual experience alone can determine the right, which varies
according to the differences of taste, temperament, or culture. There are,
however, some pleasures which are more than counterbalanced by the pains
incurred in procuring them, or by those occasioned by them; and there are,
also, pains which are the means of pleasures greater than themselves. The
wise man, therefore, will measure and govern his conduct, not by the
pleasure of the moment, but with reference to the future and ultimate
effects of acts, habits, and courses of conduct, upon his happiness. What
are called the virtues, as justice, temperance, chastity, are in
themselves no better than their opposites; but experience has shown that
they increase the aggregate of pleasure, and diminish the aggregate of
pain. Therefore, and therefore alone, they are duties. The great worth of
philosophy consists in its enabling men to estimate the relative duration,
and the permanent consequences, as well as the immediate intensity, of
every form of pleasure.

Epicurus specifies *two kinds of pleasure*, that of rest and that of
motion. He prefers the former. Action has its reaction; excitement is
followed by depression; effort, by weariness; thought for others involves
the disturbance of one’s own peace. The gods, according to Epicurus, lead
an easy, untroubled life, leave the outward universe to take care of
itself, are wholly indifferent to human affairs, and are made ineffably
happy by the entire absence of labor, want, and care; and man becomes most
godlike and most happy, therefore most virtuous, when he floats through
life, unharming and unharmed, idle and useless, self-contained and
self-sufficing, simple in his tastes, moderate in his requirements, frugal
in his habits.

It may be doubted *whether Epicurus denoted by pleasure,*(*18*)* mere
physical pleasure alone*. It is certain that his later followers regarded
the pleasures of the body as the only good; and Cicero says that Epicurus
himself referred all the pleasures of the intellect to the memory of past
and the hope of future sensual gratification. Yet there is preserved an
extract of a letter from Epicurus, in which he says that his own bodily
pains in his years of decrepitude are outweighed by the pleasure derived
from the memory of his philosophical labors and discoveries.

*Epicureanism numbered among its disciples*, not only *men of approved
virtue*, but not a few, like Pliny the Younger, of a more active type of
virtue than Epicurus would have deemed consistent with pleasure. But in
lapse of time it became the pretext and cover for the grossest sensuality;
and the associations which the unlearned reader has with the name are only
strengthened by conversance with the literature to which it gave birth.
Horace is its poet-laureate; and he was evidently as sincere in his
philosophy as he was licentious in his life. There is a certain charm in
good faith and honesty, even when on the side of wrong and vice; and it is
his perfect frankness, self-complacency, nay, self-praise, in a sensuality
which in plain prose would seem by turns vapid and disgusting, that makes
Horace even perilously fascinating, so that the guardians of the public
morals may well be thankful that for the young the approach to him is
warded off by the formidable barriers of grammar and dictionary.

While Epicureanism thus generated, on the one hand, in men of the world
laxity of moral principle and habit, on the other hand, in minds of a more
contemplative cast, it *lapsed into atheism*. From otiose gods, careless
of human affairs, the transition was natural to a belief in no gods. The
universe which could preserve and govern itself, could certainly have
sprung into uncaused existence; for the tendencies which, without a
supervising power, maintain order in nature, continuity in change,
ever-new life evolved from incessant death, must be inherent tendencies to
combination, harmony, and organization, and thus may account for the
origin of the system which they sustain and renew. This type of atheism
has its most authentic exposition in the “De Rerum Natura” of Lucretius.
He does not, in so many words, deny the being of the gods,—he, indeed,
speaks of them as leading restful lives, withdrawn from all care of mortal
affairs; but he so scoffs at all practical recognition of them, and so
jeers at the reverence and awe professed for them by the multitude, that
we are constrained to regard them as rather the imagery of his verse than
the objects of his faith. He maintains the past eternity of matter, which
consists of atoms or monads of various forms. These, drifting about in
space, and impinging upon one another, by a series of happy chances, fell
into orderly relations and close-fitting symmetries, whence, in
succession, and by a necessity inherent in the primitive atoms, came
organization, life, instinct, love, reason, wisdom. This poem has a
peculiar value at the present day, as closely coincident in its cosmogony
with one of the most recent phases of physical philosophy, and showing
that what calls itself progress may be motion in a circle.

The *Stoics*, so called from a portico(19) adorned with magnificent
paintings by Polygnotus, in which their doctrines were first taught, owe
their origin to Zeno, who lived to a very great age, illustrious for
self-control, temperance, and the severest type of virtue, and at length,
in accordance with a favorite dogma and practice of his school, when he
found that he had before him only growing infirmity with no hope of
restoration, terminated his life by his own hand.

According to the Stoic philosophy, *virtue is the sole end of life*, and
virtue is the conformity of the will and conduct to universal nature.
Virtue alone is good; vice alone is evil; and whatever is neither virtue
nor vice is neither good nor evil in itself, but is to be sought or
shunned, according as it is auxiliary to virtue or conducive to vice,—if
neither, to be regarded with utter indifference. Virtue is indivisible. It
does not admit of degrees. He who only approximates to virtue, however
closely, is yet to be regarded as outside of its pale. Only the wise man
can be virtuous. He needs no precepts of duty. His intuitions are always
to be trusted. His sense of right cannot be blinded or misled. As for
those who do not occupy this high philosophic ground, though they cannot
be really virtuous, they yet may present some show and semblance of
virtue, and they may be aided in this by precepts and ethical
instruction.(20) It was for the benefit of those who, on account of their
lack of true wisdom, needed such direction, and were at the same time so
well disposed as to receive and follow it, that treatises on practical
morality were written by many of the later Stoics, and that in Rome there
were teachers of this school who exercised functions closely analogous to
those of the Christian preacher and pastor.

Stoicism found *its most congenial soil* in the stern, hardy integrity and
patriotism of those Romans, whose incorruptible virtue is the one
redeeming feature of the declining days of the Republic and the effeminacy
and coarse depravity of the Empire. Seneca’s ethical writings(21) are
almost Christian, not only in their faithful rebuke of every form of
wrong, but in their tender humanity for the poor, the slaves, the victims
of oppression, in their universal philanthropy, and in their precepts of
patience under suffering, forbearance, forgiveness, and returning good for
evil. Epictetus, the deformed slave of a capricious and cruel master,
beaten and crippled in mere wantonness, enfranchised in his latter years,
only to be driven into exile and to sound the lowest depths of poverty,
exhibited a type of heroic virtue which has hardly been equalled, perhaps
never transcended by a mere mortal; and though looking, as has been
already said, to annihilation as the goal of life, he maintained a spirit
so joyous, and has left in his writings so attractive a picture of a soul
serenely and supremely happy, that he has given support and consolation to
multitudes of the bravest and best disciples of the heaven-born religion,
which he can have known—if at all—only through its slanderers and
persecutors. Marcus Aurelius, in a kindred spirit, and under the even
heavier burdens of a tottering empire, domestic dissensions, and defeat
and disaster abroad, maintained the severest simplicity and purity of
life, appropriated portions of his busiest days to devout contemplation,
meditated constantly on death, and disciplined himself to regard with
contempt alike the praise of flatterers and the contingency of posthumous
fame. We have, especially in Nero’s reign, the record of not a few men and
women of like spirit and character, whose lofty and impregnable virtue
lacked only loving faith and undoubting trust in a fatherly Providence to
assimilate them to the foremost among the Apostles and martyrs of the
Christian Church.

*The Sceptical school of philosophy* claims in this connection a brief
notice. Though so identified in common speech with the name of a single
philosopher, that Pyrrhonism is a synonyme for Scepticism, it was much
older than Pyrrho, and greatly outnumbered his avowed followers. It was
held by the teachers of this school that objective truth is unattainable.
Not only do the perceptions and conceptions of different persons vary as
to every object of knowledge; but the perceptions and conceptions of the
same persons as to the same object vary at different times. Nay, more, at
the same time one sense conveys impressions which another sense may
negative, and not infrequently the reflective faculty negatives all the
impressions derived from the senses, and forms a conception entirely
unlike that which would have taken shape through the organs of sense. The
soul that seeks to know, is thus in constant agitation. But happiness
consists in imperturbableness of spirit, that is, in suspense of judgment;
and as it is our duty to promote our own happiness, it is our duty to live
without desire or fear, preference or abhorrence, love or hatred, in
entire apathy,—a life of which Mohammed’s fabled coffin is the fittest

The *New Academy*, whose philosophy was a hybrid of Platonism and
Pyrrhonism, while it denied the possibility of ascertaining objective
truth, yet taught that on all subjects of speculative philosophy
probability is attainable, and that, if the subject in hand be one which
admits of being acted upon, it is the duty of the moral agent to act in
accordance with probability,—to pursue the course in behalf of which the
more and the better reasons can be given. There are moral acts and habits
which seem to be in accordance with reason and the nature of things. We
may be mistaken in thinking them so; yet the probability that they are so
creates a moral obligation in their favor. The New Academy professed a
hypothetical acquiescence in the ethics of the Peripatetic school,
maintaining, therefore, that the mean between two extremes is probably in
accordance with right and duty, and that virtue is probably man’s highest
good, yet probably not sufficient in itself without the addition of
exterior advantages.

*Cicero* considered himself as belonging to the New Academy. His instincts
as an advocate, often induced by professional exigencies to deny what he
had previously affirmed, made the scepticism of this school congenial to
him; while his love of elegant ease and luxury and his lack of moral
courage were in closer harmony with the practical ethics of the
Peripatetics than with the more rigid system of the Stoics. At the same
time, his pure moral taste and his sincere reverence for the right brought
him into sympathy with the Stoic school. His “De Officiis” is an
exposition of the Stoic system of ethics, though by the professed disciple
of another philosophy. It is as if a Mohammedan, without disclaiming his
own religion, should undertake an exposition of the ethics of
Christianity, on the ground that, though Mohammed was a genuine prophet,
there was, nevertheless, a higher and purer morality in the New Testament
than in the Koran.

                               Chapter XV.


*For several centuries after the destruction of the Western Empire*,
philosophy had hardly an existence except in its records, and these were
preserved chiefly for their parchment, half-effaced, covered by what took
the place of literature in the (so called) Dark Ages, and at length
deciphered by such minute and wearisome toil as only mediæval cloisters
have ever furnished. For a long period, monasteries were the only schools,
and in these the learned men of the day were, either successively or
alternately, learners and teachers, whence the appellation of _Schoolmen_.
The learned men who bear this name were fond of casuistry, and discussed
imagined and often impossible cases with great pains (their readers would
have greater); but, so far as we know, they have left no systematic
treatises on moral philosophy, and have transmitted no system that owes to
them its distinguishing features. Yet we find among them a very broad
division of opinion as to the ground of right. The fundamental position of
the Stoics, that virtue is conformity to nature, and thus independent of
express legislation,—not created by law, human or divine, but the source
and origin of law,—had its champions, strong, but few; while the
Augustinian theology, then almost universal, replaced Epicureanism in its
denial of the intrinsic and indelible moral qualities of actions. The
extreme Augustinians regarded the positive command of God as the sole
cause and ground of right, so that the very things which are forbidden
under the severest penalties would become virtuous and commendable, if
enjoined by Divine authority. William of Ockham, one of the most
illustrious of the English Schoolmen, wrote: “If God commanded his
creatures to hate himself, the hatred of God would be the duty of man.”

The *earliest modern* theory of morals that presented striking
peculiarities was that of *Hobbes* (A. D. 1588-1679), who was indebted
solely to the stress of his time, alike for his system and for whatever
slender following it may have had. He was from childhood a staunch
royalist, was shortly after leaving the University the tutor of a loyal
nobleman, and, afterward, of Charles II. during the early years of his
exile; and the parliamentary and Puritan outrages seemed to him to be
aimed at all that was august and reverend, and adapted to overturn
society, revert progress, and crush civilization. According to him, men
are by nature one another’s enemies, and can be restrained from
internecine hostility only by force or fear. An instinctive perception of
this truth in the infancy of society gave rise to monarchical and absolute
forms of government; for only by thus centralizing and massing power,
which could be directed against any disturber of the peace, could the
individual members of society hold property or life in safety. The king
thus reigns by right of human necessity, and obedience to him and to
constituted authorities under him is man’s whole duty, and the sum of
virtue. Might creates right. Conscience is but another name for the fear
of punishment. The intimate connection of religion with civil freedom in
the English Commonwealth no doubt went far in uprooting in Hobbes all
religious faith; and while he did not openly attack Christianity, he
maintained the duty of entire conformity to the monarch’s religion,
whatever it might be, which is of course tantamount to the denial of
objective religious truth.(22)

Hobbes may fairly be regarded as *the father of modern ethical
philosophy*,—not that he had children after his own likeness; but his
speculations were so revolting equally to thinking and to serious men, as
to arouse inquiry and stimulate mental activity in a department previously

The gauntlet thus thrown down by Hobbes was taken up by *Cudworth* (A. D.
1617-1688), the most learned man of his time, whose “Intellectual System
of the Universe” is a prodigy of erudition,—a work in which his own
thought is so blocked up with quotations, authorities, and masses of
recondite lore, that it is hardly possible to trace the windings of the
river for the débris of auriferous rocks that obstruct its flow. The
treatise with which we are concerned is that on “Eternal and Immutable
Morality.” In this he maintains that the right exists, independently of
all authority, by the very nature of things, in co-eternity with the
Supreme Being. So far is he from admitting the possibility of any
dissiliency between the Divine will and absolute right, that he turns the
tables on his opponents, and classes among Atheists those of his
contemporaries who maintain that God can command what is contrary to the
intrinsic right; that He has no inclination to the good of his creatures;
that He can justly doom an innocent being to eternal torments; or that
whatever God wills is just because He wills it.

*Samuel Clarke* (A. D. 1675-1729) followed Cudworth in the same line of
thought. He was, it is believed, the first writer who employed the term
_fitness_ as defining the ground of the immutable and eternal right,
though the idea of fitness necessarily underlies every system or theory
that assigns to virtue intrinsic validity.

*Shaftesbury* (A. D. 1671-1713) represents virtue as residing, not in the
nature or relations of things, but in the bearing of actions on the
welfare or happiness of beings other than the actor. Benevolence
constitutes virtue; and the merit of the action and of the actor is
determined by the degree in which particular affections are merged in
general philanthropy, and reference is had, not to individual
beneficiaries or benefits, but to the whole system of things of which the
actor forms a part. The affections from which such acts spring commend
themselves to the moral sense, and are of necessity objects of esteem and
love. But the moral sense takes cognizance of the affections only, not of
the acts themselves; and as the conventional standard of the desirable and
the useful varies with race, time, and culture, the acts which the
affections prompt, and which therefore are virtuous, may be in one age or
country such as the people of another century or land may repudiate with
loathing. Las Casas, in introducing negro slavery into America, with the
fervently benevolent purpose of relieving the hardships of the feeble and
overtasked aborigines, performed, according to this theory, a virtuous
act; but had he once considered the question of intrinsic right or natural
fitness, a name so worthily honored would never have been associated with
the foulest crime of modern civilization.

According to *Adam Smith* (A. D. 1723-1790), moral distinctions depend
wholly on sympathy. We approve in others what corresponds to our own
tastes and habits; we disapprove whatever is opposed to them. As to our
own conduct, “we suppose ourselves,” he writes, “the spectators of our own
behavior, and endeavor to imagine what effect it would in this light
produce in us.” Our sense of duty is derived wholly from our thus putting
ourselves in the place of others, and inquiring what they would approve in
us. Conscience, then, is a collective and corporate, not an individual
faculty. It is created by the prevalent opinions of the community.
Solitary virtue there cannot be; for without sympathy there is no
self-approval. By parity of reason, the duty of the individual can never
transcend the average conscience of the community. This theory describes
society as it is, not as it ought to be. We are, to a sad degree,
conventional in our practice, much more so than in our beliefs; but it is
the part of true manliness to have the conscience an interior, not an
external organ, to form and actualize notions of right and duty for one’s
self, and to stand and walk alone, if need there be, as there manifestly
is in not a few critical moments, and as there is not infrequently in the
inward experience of every man who means to do his duty.

*Butler* (A. D. 1692-1752), in his “Ethical Discourses,” aims mainly and
successfully to demonstrate the rightful supremacy of conscience. His
favorite conception is of the human being as himself a household [_an
economy_],—the various propensities, appetites, passions, and affections,
the members,—Conscience, the head, recognized as such by all, so that
there is, when her sovereignty is owned, an inward repose and
satisfaction; when she is disobeyed, a sense of discord and rebellion, of
unrest and disturbance. This is sound and indisputable, and it cannot be
more clearly stated or more vividly illustrated than by Butler; but he
manifestly regards conscience as legislator no less than judge, and thus
fails to recognize any objective standard of right. It is evident that on
his ground there is no criterion by which honestly erroneous moral
judgments can be revised, or by which a discrimination can be made between
the results of education or involuntary prejudice, and the right as
determined by the nature of things and the standard of intrinsic fitness.

Of all modern ethical writers since the time of Cudworth and Clarke, none
so much as approaches the position occupied by *Richard Price* (A. D.
1723-1791), a London dissenting divine, a warm advocate of American
independence, and the intimate friend of John Adams. He maintained that
right and wrong are inherent and necessary, immutable and eternal
characteristics, not dependent on will or command, but on the intrinsic
nature of the act, and determined with unerring accuracy by conscience,
whenever the nature of the case is clearly known. “Morality,” he writes,
“is fixed on an immovable basis, and appears not to be in any sense
factitious, or the arbitrary production of any power, human or divine; but
equally everlasting and necessary with all truth and reason.” “Virtue is
of intrinsic value and of indispensable obligation; not the creature of
will, but necessary and immutable; not local and temporary, but of equal
extent and antiquity with the Divine mind; not dependent on power, but the
guide of all power.”(23)

*Paley* (A. D. 1743-1805) gives a definition of virtue, remarkable for its
combination of three partial theories. Virtue, according to him, is “the
doing good to mankind, in obedience to the will of God, and for the sake
of everlasting happiness.” Of this definition it may be said, 1. The doing
good to mankind is indeed virtue; but it is by no means the whole of
virtue. 2. Obedience to the will of God is our duty; but it is so, because
his will must of necessity be in accordance with the fitting and right.
Could we conceive of Omnipotence commanding what is intrinsically unfit
and wrong, the virtuous man would not be the God-server, but the
Prometheus suffering the implacable vengeance of an unrighteous Deity. 3.
Though everlasting happiness be the result of virtue, it is not the ground
or the reason for it. Were our being earth-limited, virtue would lose none
of its obligation. Epictetus led as virtuous a life as if heaven had been
open to his faith and hope.—Paley’s system may be described in detail as
Shaftesbury’s, with an external washing of Christianity; Shaftesbury
having been what was called a free-thinker, while Paley was a sincere
believer in the Christian revelation, and contributed largely and
efficiently to the defence of Christianity and the illustration of its
records. The chief merit of Paley’s treatise on Moral Philosophy is that
it clearly and emphatically recognizes the Divine authority of the moral
teachings of the New Testament, though in expounding them the author too
frequently dilutes them by considerations of expediency.

*Jeremy Bentham* (A. D. 1747-1832) is Paley _minus_ Christianity. The
greatest good of the greatest number is, according to him, the aim and
criterion of virtue. Moral rules should be constructed with this sole end;
and this should be the pervading purpose of all legislation. Bentham’s
works are very voluminous, and they cover, wisely and well, almost every
department of domestic, social, public, and national life. The worst that
can be said of his political writings is that they are in advance of the
age,—literally Utopian;(24) for it would be well with the country which
was prepared to embody his views. But, unfortunately, his principles have
no power of self-realization. They are like a watch, perfect in all other
parts, but without the mainspring. Bentham contemplates the individual man
as an agency, rather than as an intellectual and moral integer. He must
work under yoke and harness for ends vast and remote, beyond the
appreciation of ordinary mortals; and he must hold all partial affections
and nearer aims subordinate to rules deduced by sages and legislators from
considerations of general utility. Bentham’s influence on legislation,
especially on criminal law, has been beneficially felt on both sides of
the Atlantic. In the department of pure ethics, there are no essential
points of difference between him and other writers of the utilitarian

                                * * * * *

In *France* there has been a large preponderance of sensualism,
expediency, and selfishness in the ethical systems that have had the most
extensive currency. There was a great deal of elaborate ethical
speculation and theory among the French philosophers of the last century;
but among them we cannot recall a single writer who maintained a higher
ground than Bentham, except that Rousseau—perhaps the most immoral of them
all—who was an Epicurean so far as he had any philosophy, sometimes soars
in sentimental rhapsodies about the intrinsic beauty and loveliness of a
virtue which he knew only by name.

*Malebranche* (A. D. 1638-1714), whose principal writings belong to the
previous century, represents entirely opposite views and tendencies. He
hardly differs from Samuel Clarke, except in phraseology. He resolves
virtue into love of the universal order, and conformity to it in conduct.
This order requires that we should prize and love all beings and objects
in proportion to their relative worth, and that we should recognize this
relative worth in our rules and habits of life. Thus man is to be more
highly valued and more assiduously served than the lower animals, because
worth more; and God is to be loved infinitely more than man, and to be
always obeyed and served in preference to man, because he is worth
immeasurably more than the beings that derive their existence from him.
Malebranche ascribes to the Supreme Being, not the arbitrary exercise of
power in constituting the right, but recognition, in his government of the
world and in his revealed will, of the order, which is man’s sole law.
“Sovereign princes,” he says, “have no right to use their authority
without reason. Even God has no such miserable right.”

At nearly the same period commenced the ethical controversy between
*Fénélon* (A. D. 1651-1715) and *Bossuet* (A. D. 1627-1704), as to the
possibility and obligation of disinterested virtue. Fénélon and the
Quietists, who sympathized with him, maintained that the pure love of God,
without any self-reference, or regard for one’s own well-being either here
or here-after, is the goal and the test of human perfection, and that
nothing below this—nothing which aims or aspires at anything less than
this—deserves the name of virtue. Bossuet defended the selfish theory of
virtue, attacked his amiable antagonist with unconscionable severity and
bitterness, and succeeded in obtaining from the court of Rome—though
against the wishes of the Pope—the condemnation of the obnoxious tenet.
The Pope remarked, with well-turned antithesis, that Fénélon might have
erred from excess in the love of God, while Bossuet had sinned by defect
in the love of his neighbor.

Among the recent French moralists, the most distinguished names are those
of *Jouffroy* and *Cousin*, who—each with a terminology of his own—agree
with Malebranche in regarding right and wrong as inherent and essential
characteristics of actions, and as having their source and the ground of
their validity in the nature of things. The aim of Cousin’s well-known
treatise on “The True, the Beautiful, and the Good,” is purely ethical,
and the work is designed to identify the three members of the Platonic
triad with corresponding attributes of the Infinite Being,—attributes
which, virtually one, have their counterpart and manifestation in the
order of nature and the government of the universe.

                                * * * * *

In *Germany*, the necessarian philosophers of the Pantheistic school
ignore ethics by making choice and moral action impossible. Man has no
distinct and separate personality. He is for a little while detached in
appearance from the soul of the universe (_anima mundi_), but in reality
no more detached from it than is a boulder or a log of drift-wood from the
surface on which it rests. He still remains a part of the universal soul,
the multiform, all-embracing God, who is himself not a self-conscious,
freely willing being, but impelled by necessity in all his parts and
members, and, no less than in all else, in those human members through
which alone he attains to some fragmentary self-consciousness.

According to *Kant*, the reason intuitively discerns truths that are
necessary, absolute, and universal. The theoretical reason discerns such
truths in the realm of ontology, and in the relations and laws that
underlie all subjects of physical inquiry. In like manner, the practical
reason intuitively perceives the conditions and laws inherent in the
objects of moral action,—that is, as Malebranche would have said, the
elements of universal order, or, in the language of Clarke, the fitness of
things. As the mind must of necessity contemplate and cognize objects of
thought under the categories intuitively discerned by the theoretical
reason, so must the will be moved by the conditions and laws intuitively
discerned by the practical reason. This intuition is law and obligation.
Man can obey it, and to obey it is virtue. He can disobey it, and in so
doing he does not yield to necessity, but makes a voluntary choice of
wrong and evil.

                                * * * * *

It will be perceived from the historical survey in this and the previous
chapter, that—as was said at the outset—*all ethical systems resolve
themselves into the two classes of which the Epicureans and the Stoics
furnished the pristine types,*—those which make virtue an accident, a
variable, subject to authority, occasion, or circumstance; and those which
endow it with an intrinsic right, immutableness, validity, and supremacy.
On subjects of fundamental moment, opinion is of prime importance. Conduct
results from feeling, and feeling from opinion. We would have the youth,
from the very earliest period of his moral agency, grounded in the belief
that right and wrong are immutable,—that they have no localities, no
meridians,—that, with a change of surroundings, their conditions and laws
vary as little as do those of planetary or stellar motion. Let him feel
that right and wrong are not the mere dicta of human teaching, nay, are
not created even by revelation; but let their immutable distinction
express itself to his consciousness in those sublime words which belong to
it, as personified in holy writ, “Jehovah possessed me from the beginning
of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from
the beginning, or ever the earth was. When He prepared the heavens, I was
there. When He appointed the foundations of the earth, then was I by Him.”
This conception of the Divine and everlasting sacredness of virtue, is a
perennial fountain of strength. He who has this does not imagine that he
has power over the Right, can sway it by his choice, or vary its standard
by his action; but it overmasters him, and, by subduing, frees him, fills
and energizes his whole being, ennobles all his powers, exalts and hallows
all his affections, makes him a priest to God, and a king among men.


Abstinence, when to be preferred to temperance, 175

Academy, the New, 205

Action, defined, 1
  springs of, 10
  governing principles of, 30

Affections, the, 22

Anger, 26

Anonymous publications, 123

Appetites, the, 10

Aristotle, character of, 197

Beneficence, 143

Bentham, Jeremy, 215

Bossuet, controversy of, with Fénélon, 217

Brotherhood, human, in its ethical relations, 56

Butler, 212

Capital punishment, 66

Casuistry, 187

Children, duties of, 121

Christianity, a source of knowledge, 55
  exhibiting moral perfection in the person of its Founder, 68
  compared, as to its ethics, with other religions, 59
  as a motive power, 81

Cicero, philosophical relations of, 206

Clarke, Samuel, 210

Conscience, a judicial faculty, 41
  educated by use, 44
  relation of knowledge to, 45

Contracts, 128

Courage, defined, 158
  physical, 159
  moral, 160

Cousin, 218

Cudworth, 209

Desire, defined, 12
  of knowledge, 13
  of society, 15
  of esteem, 17
  of power, 18
  of superiority, 19

Duties, conflict of, 190

Duty, limit of, 189

Enemies, love of, possible, 149

Envy, 27

Epictetus, character of, 203

Epicureanism, 198

Example, ethical value of, 111

Expediency, an insufficient rule of conduct, 31
  when to be consulted, 33

Extreme cases in morals, 125

Falsehood, 151

Family, duties of the, 118

Fénélon, controversy of, with Bossuet, 217

Fitness, the ground of right, 36

Foreknowledge, Divine, consistent with human freedom, 8

Freedom of the will, arguments for, 2
  objections to, 4

Government, the essential function of, 180
  obedience to, how limited, 182
  when to be opposed, 184

Gratitude, 24

Habit, 84

Hatred, 28

Hobbes, 208

Home-life, order requisite in, 169

Homicide, justifiable, 64

Honesty, 134

Horace, the poet of Epicureanism, 200

Ignorance, sins of, 39

Immortality, ethical relations of, 57

Intemperance, 170

Jouffroy, 218

Justice, 113

Kant, ethical system of, 219

Kindness, 25

Knowledge, attainment of, a duty, 102

Law, the result of experience, 50
  an educational force, 51

Liberty, the right to, 69

Love, 22

Lucretius, philosophy of, 201

Malebranche, 216

Manners, a department of morals, 177

Marcus Aurelius, character of, 204

Marriage, 120

Measure, duties appertaining to, 170

Military service, 68

Moral philosophy, defined, 34

Motive, 79

Oaths, 129

Observation, a source of ethical knowledge, 46

Order, 164

Paley, 215

Pantheism, ethics of, 218

Parents, duties of, 121

Passion, 82

Patience, 152

Pauperism, 144

Peripatetics, the, 193

Piety toward God, 113

Pity, 25

Place, duties appertaining to, 168

Plato, as a teacher of ethics, 193

Politeness, 178

Positive duties, 117

Price, Richard, 214

Promises, 126

Prudence, 98

Punctuality, 167

Resentment, 27

Revenge, 28

Reverence, 23

Revolution, when justifiable, 185

Right, the, 35
  absolute and relative, 37

Rights, defined, 61
  how limited, 62
  personal, 64
  of property, 72
  of reputation, 76

Sabbath, the, 16

Sceptical school of philosophy, 204

Schoolmen, ethics of the, 207

Self-control, 106

Self-culture, moral, 109

Self-preservation, 99

Seneca, writings and character of, 203

Shaftesbury, 210

Slavery, 70

Smith, Adam, 211

Socrates, as a teacher of ethics, 195

Speculation in business, when legitimate, 138
  when dishonest, 140

Spinoza, 209

Stoics, philosophy of the, 201
  eminent Roman, 203

Submission, 155

Sympathy, 25

Taxation, 75

Temperance, 173

Time, duties appertaining to, 165

Usury, 142

Veracity, 122

Virtue, defined, 88
  connection of, with piety, 91

Virtues, the, 94
  cardinal, 96

Worship, public, 115

Zeno, character of, 202


_    1 Compassion_ ought from its derivation to have the same meaning with
      _sympathy_; but in common usage it is synonymous with pity.

    2 “Ignorantia legis neminem excusat.”

    3 The theory that Seneca was acquainted with St. Paul, or had any
      _direct_ intercourse with Christians in Rome or elsewhere, has no
      historical evidence, and rests on assumptions that are contradicted
      by known facts.

_    4 Virtutes leniores_, as Cicero calls them.

    5 The duty of society to inflict capital punishment on the murderer
      has been maintained on the ground of the Divine command to that
      effect, said to have been given to Noah, and thus to be binding on
      all his posterity. (Genesis ix. 5.) My own belief—founded on a
      careful examination of the Hebrew text—is, that the _human_ murderer
      is not referred to in this precept, but that it simply requires the
      slaying of the beast that should cause the death of a man,—a
      precaution which was liable to be neglected in a rude state of
      society, and was among the special enactments of the Mosaic law.
      (Exodus xxi. 38.) If, however, the common interpretation be
      retained, the precept requires the shedding of the murderer’s blood
      by the _brother_ or nearest kinsman of the murdered man, and is not
      obeyed by giving up the murderer to the _gallows_ and the _public
      executioner_. Moreover, the same series of precepts prescribes an
      abstinence from the natural juices of animal food, which would
      require an entire revolution in our shambles, kitchens, and tables.
      If these precepts were Divine commandments for men of all times,
      they should be obeyed in full; but there is the grossest
      inconsistency and absurdity in holding only a portion of one of them
      sacred, and ignoring all the rest.

    6 Latin, _virtus_, from _vir_, which denotes not, like _homo_, simply
      a human being, but a man endowed with all appropriate manly
      attributes, and comes from the same root with _vis_, strength. The
      Greek synonyms of _virtus_, ἀρετή, is derived from Ἀρης, the god of
      war, who in the heroic days of Greece was the ideal man, the
      standard of human excellence, and whose name some lexicographers
      regard—as it seems to me, somewhat fancifully—as allied through its
      root to ἀνήρ, which bears about the same relation to ἄνθρωπος that
      _vir_ bears to _homo_.

    7 In the languages which have inherited or adopted the Latin _virtus_,
      it retains its original signification, with one striking exception,
      which yet is perhaps an exception in appearance rather than in
      reality. In the Italian, virtu is employed to signify taste, and
      _virtuoso_, which may denote a virtuous man, oftener means a
      collector of objects of taste. We have here an historical landmark.
      There was a period when, under civil despotism, the old Roman
      manhood had entirely died out on its native soil, while
      ecclesiastical corruption rendered the nobler idea of Christian
      manhood effete; and then the highest type of manhood that remained
      was the culture of those refined sensibilities, those ornamental
      arts, and that keen sense of the beautiful, in which Italy as far
      surpassed other lands, as it was for centuries inferior to them in
      physical bravery and in moral rectitude.

    8 It is obviously on this ground alone that we can affirm moral
      attributes of the Supreme Being. When we say that he is perfectly
      just, pure, holy, beneficent, we recognize a standard of judgment
      logically independent of his nature. We mean that the fitness which
      the human conscience recognizes as its only standard of right, is
      the law which he has elected for his own administration of the
      universe. Could we conceive of omnipotence not recognizing this law,
      the decrees and acts of such a being would not be necessarily right.
      Omnipotence cannot make that which is fitting wrong, or that which
      is unfitting right. God’s decrees and acts are not right because
      they are his, but his because they are right.

    9 From _cardo_, a hinge.

   10 It is virtually Cicero’s division in the _De Officiis_.

   11 The points at issue with regard to sabbatical observance hardly
      belong to an elementary treatise on ethics. I ought not, however, to
      leave any doubt as to my own opinion. I believe, then, the rest of
      the Sabbath a necessity of man’s constitution, physical and mental,
      of that of the beasts subservient to his use, and, in some measure,
      even of the inanimate agents under his control, while the
      sequestration of the day from the course of ordinary life is equally
      a moral and religious necessity. The weekly Sabbath I regard as a
      dictate of natural piety, and a primeval institution, re-enacted,
      not established, by Moses, and sanctioned by our Saviour when he
      refers to the Decalogue as a compend of moral duty, as also in
      various other forms and ways. As to modes of sabbatical observance,
      the rigid abstinences and austerities once common in New England
      were derived from the Mosaic ceremonial law, and have no sanction
      either in the New Testament or in the habits of the early
      Christians. I can conceive of no better rule for the Lord’s day,
      than that each person so spend it as to interfere as little as
      possible with its fitting use by others, and to make it as availing
      as he can for his own relaxation from secular cares, and growth in
      wisdom and goodness.

   12 It was the malignity displayed toward the children of divorced wives
      by the women who succeeded them in the affections and homes of their
      husbands, that in Roman literature attached to the name of a
      stepmother (_noverca_) the most hateful associations, which
      certainly have no place in modern Christendom, where the stepmother
      oftener than not assumes the maternal cares of the deceased wife as
      if they were natively her own.

   13 When Jesus forbids swearing by heaven, because “it is God’s throne,”
      and by the earth, because “it is his footstool,” the inference is
      obvious that, for still stronger reasons, all direct swearing by God
      himself is prohibited. The word μήτε, which introduces the oaths by
      inferior objects specified in the text under discussion, not
      infrequently corresponds to our phrase _not even_. With this sense
      of μήτε, the passage would be rendered, “But I say unto you, Swear
      not at all, not even by heaven,” etc.

      I find that some writers on this subject quote in vindication of
      oaths on solemn occasions the instances in the Scriptures in which
      God is said to have sworn by Himself. The reply is obvious, that no
      being can swear by himself, the essential significance of an oath
      being an appeal to some being or object other than one’s self.
      Because God “can swear by no greater,” it is certain that when this
      phraseology is used concerning Him, it is employed figuratively, to
      aid the poverty of human conceptions, and to express the certainty
      of his promise by the strongest terms which human language affords.
      In like manner, God is said by the sacred writers to repent of
      intended retribution to evil-doers, not that infinite justice and
      love can change in thought, plan, or purpose, but because a change
      of disposition and feeling is wont to precede human clemency to

   14 The odious meaning of _excessive_ interest, as attached to _usury_,
      is of comparatively recent date. In the earlier English, as in our
      translation of the Bible, it denotes any sum given for the use of

   15 In this country usury laws are fast yielding to the growth of
      intelligence in monetary affairs. Wherever they exist in their
      severer forms, they only enhance the rate of interest paid by the
      major portion of the class of borrowers, as the lender must be
      compensated, not only for the use of his money, and for the risk of
      his creditor’s inability to repay it, but also for the additional
      risk of detection, prosecution, and forfeiture.

   16 The reader need not be told that _patience_ and _passion_ are
      derived from different participles of the same verb. _Patience_
      comes from the present participle, and fittingly denotes the spirit
      in which present suffering should be met; while _passion_ comes from
      the perfect or past participle, and as fittingly denotes the
      condition ensuing upon any physical, mental, or moral affection,
      induced from without, which has been endured without protest or

   17 From _punctum_, a point.

   18 Ἡδονή.

   19 Στοά.

   20 The words employed by the Stoics to indicate specific duties, as
      presented to the common understanding, recognize intrinsic fitness
      as the ground of right. These duties are termed in Greek, καθήκοντα,
      that is, _be-fitting_, and in Latin, _officia_, from _ob_ and
      _facio_, that which is done _ob aliquid_, for some assignable

   21 How far Seneca’s character was represented by his philosophy is, we
      believe, a fairly open question. That the beginning and the close of
      his career were in accordance with his teachings, is certain. That
      as a courtier, he was in suspicious proximity to, if not in
      complicity with, gross scandals and crimes, is equally certain. The
      evidence against him is weighty, but by no means conclusive. He may
      have lingered in the purlieus of the palace in fond memory of what
      Nero had been in the promise of his youth, and in the groundless
      hope of bringing him again under more humane influences. This
      supposition is rendered the more probable by the well-known fact,
      that during his whole court life, and notwithstanding his great
      wealth, Seneca’s personal habits were almost those of an anchorite.

   22 Spinoza’s ethical system was closely parallel to that of Hobbes. He
      denied the intrinsic difference between right and wrong; but he
      regarded _aristocracy_ as the natural order of society. With him, as
      with Hobbes, virtue consists solely in obedience to constituted
      authority; and so utterly did he ignore a higher law, that he
      maintained it to be the right of a state to abjure a treaty with
      another state, when its terms ceased to be convenient or profitable.

   23 Price’s theory of morals is developed with singular precision and
      force in one of the Baccalaureate Addresses of the late President
      Appleton, of Bowdoin College.

   24 Εὐτόπος.

   25 The reader who is conversant with the literature of ethics in
      England and America will miss in this chapter many names which merit
      a place by the side of those that have been given. But within the
      limits proposed for this manual, the alternative was to select a few
      writers among those who have largely influenced the thought of their
      own and succeeding times, and to associate with each of them
      something that should mark his individuality; or to make the chapter
      little more than a catalogue of names. The former is evidently the
      more judicious course. Nothing has been said of living writers,—not
      because there are none who deserve an honored place among the
      contributors to this department of science, but because, were the
      list to be once opened, we should hardly know where to close it.

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